Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Day the World Should Have Stopped

On Sept. 11, 2001 I was up bright and early with my daughter who was then only one-and-a-half-years old. I turned the television on to watch children’s programming and found terror instead. I remember watching in horror as the second airplane flew into the second tower.

In this age of mass communication, I witnessed it at the very moment that it happened, the tower imploding as people ran hysterically away from the blast in shock and fear. I felt the world stop in those moments, as if all life was ending right then and there.

In the background of my shock I could hear my daughter, Sophia, singing and playing in her innocent obliviousness. I rushed to wake my mom and bring to her attention that the world was coming to an end. At least, that was what it felt like.

To some degree I felt shame for having never identified so strongly with terrorist attacks in the past, in other more distant countries. As my mom and I sat and watched this violent display of human sacrifice, tears running down our faces, my daughter continued to play and sing as if nothing was happening and the world wasn’t changing before our very eyes. And I think that was the most brutal part of it all. For me, for those of us sitting in our living rooms watching from the safety of our homes, life would go on. It seemed like we were somehow traitors for going on.

In essence, in our shock, we were going through the motions of living after watching the loss of countless lives in a “live” broadcast, so to speak. That day was like a dream, as were the days that followed. I found it hard to believe that the sun was still shining and people were still buying milk, and Sophia was still singing and playing like children do. And I thanked God that she was, still singing. And I praised God that I was still here for her, unlike so many mothers and fathers who had lost their lives that day. I cried and I mourned for those children. My relief that death had not touched my family was muted. I felt shame because of that muted relief.

I am still traumatized by the memory and the ongoing news coverage. I realize that I can’t even imagine how devastated the people who were there and who lost their loved ones must be in the wake of it all. For British Columbians, the tragedy was felt beyond that personal level because our businesses have suffered due to the increased border procedures and subsequent lack of Americans spending here.

The world, I feel, is divided. Some are glad to see that the superpower, United States of America, is vulnerable and can be the receiver rather than the perpetrator of violence for once. Others are deeply saddened, as I am, that so much loss was needlessly inflicted upon a peaceful, civilian community as a result of the animosity their government has incurred.

I find it hard to believe that anyone could feel no sorrow or pain for the experience of thousands of innocent people that day. But then I realize that just as I have been unsympathetic in so many ways to the losses that occur every day in countries far away from me; so it is possible for those others who are far from North America and living in war-torn countries, struggling daily to survive, to be unsympathetic to the tragic circumstances of September 11. And they, too, are people who have and are experiencing traumas that I can’t even imagine as I live in my safe little world in a city in British Columbia, Canada.

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