Main Entry: cor.o.nach
(definition courtesy of yourdictionary.com)
This is my journey, my spiritual, emotional,
and psychological travelogue, beginning on September 11, until
whatever day I end up posting this. And I am going to post it,
I think, even though parts of it are very personal. Maybe it will
help someone. Maybe I want to leave a mark, make a gesture, like
raising the flag at the Pentagon.
But this is my story, my way of working
through the grief. I will almost surely offend everyone at some
point, either through my language, my opinions, or my openly Pagan
beliefs. But I hope you try to read through it anyway. Even if
you don't agree. Maybe especially if you don't agree.
"Upon rising in the morning,
we looked forward to a normal day of customary business progress.
The conservative morning paper seldom had headlines larger than
half an inch in height. Upon reaching the breakfast table, our
perusal of the morning paper was slow and deliberate. We did not
nervously clutch for it and rapidly scan the glaring headlines,
as we are inclined to do today. Nothing was revealed in the morning
the trend of which was not known the night before...There was
peace, and the world had an even tenor to its ways...
"In those days, one could freely
circulate around the world, in both a physical and economic sense,
and definitely plan for the future, unhampered by class, nationality,
or government...It seems to me that the disaster about to occur
was the event which would not only make the world rub its eyes
and awake, but woke it with a start, keeping it moving at a rapidly
accelerating pace ever since, with less and less peace, satisfaction,
"Today, the individual had to
be contented with rapidity of motion, nervous emotion, and economic
insecurity. To my mind, the world of today awoke April 15, 1912." Or September 11, 2001.
That morning began like any other. I
got ready for my day, and signed on to check my morning mail.
While I waited for the download to finish, I put on the morning
news. To my surprise, I saw a picture of the South Tower, smoke
billowing out in a thick plume. I'd expect to see smoke like that
in an FX shot of Dante's Hell, not on the morning news, not on
the New York skyline.
I heard a reporter shout about a second
explosion, and the picture dissolved into snow and static. I went
back to my computer. My inbox began to fill with e-mails from
my friends and family all over the world, passing on updates and
seeking news about relatives and friends.
I tried to piece together what I read
on various websites with what was coming in through my in-box.
For quite some time, I though that someone had launched a virus
that had crippled our air traffic control network. This was America,
our planes don't just drop out of the sky. Slowly, it sank in:
a group of people had hijacked planes and turned them into weapons.
A car bomb had gone off outside the State Department.
~John B. "Jack" Thayer, Titanic survivor.
But this is my story, my way of working through the grief. I will almost surely offend everyone at some point, either through my language, my opinions, or my openly Pagan beliefs. But I hope you try to read through it anyway. Even if you don't agree. Maybe especially if you don't agree.
"Upon rising in the morning, we looked forward to a normal day of customary business progress. The conservative morning paper seldom had headlines larger than half an inch in height. Upon reaching the breakfast table, our perusal of the morning paper was slow and deliberate. We did not nervously clutch for it and rapidly scan the glaring headlines, as we are inclined to do today. Nothing was revealed in the morning the trend of which was not known the night before...There was peace, and the world had an even tenor to its ways...
"In those days, one could freely circulate around the world, in both a physical and economic sense, and definitely plan for the future, unhampered by class, nationality, or government...It seems to me that the disaster about to occur was the event which would not only make the world rub its eyes and awake, but woke it with a start, keeping it moving at a rapidly accelerating pace ever since, with less and less peace, satisfaction, and happiness.
"Today, the individual had to
be contented with rapidity of motion, nervous emotion, and economic
insecurity. To my mind, the world of today awoke April 15, 1912."
Or September 11, 2001.
That morning began like any other. I got ready for my day, and signed on to check my morning mail. While I waited for the download to finish, I put on the morning news. To my surprise, I saw a picture of the South Tower, smoke billowing out in a thick plume. I'd expect to see smoke like that in an FX shot of Dante's Hell, not on the morning news, not on the New York skyline.
I heard a reporter shout about a second explosion, and the picture dissolved into snow and static. I went back to my computer. My inbox began to fill with e-mails from my friends and family all over the world, passing on updates and seeking news about relatives and friends.
I tried to piece together what I read on various websites with what was coming in through my in-box. For quite some time, I though that someone had launched a virus that had crippled our air traffic control network. This was America, our planes don't just drop out of the sky. Slowly, it sank in: a group of people had hijacked planes and turned them into weapons. A car bomb had gone off outside the State Department.
The Towers were gone.
The Pentagon was damaged.
Another plane down.
Another building down.
The estimated death-toll was in the tens of thousands.
The Towers were gone.
"We have been attacked..."
For days, I sat numb and empty, wondering why I couldn't feel anything. The Internet was still my most reliable source of news, and I spent hours hunting down news, lurking in chat rooms and message boards. And Life continued on, with that strange, almost callous disregard for human emotion that underscores yet again that we are not the center of the Universe. People died in the week of the September 11, who were no-where near the Twin Towers. Sick people got sicker. Babies were born. And I sat, wondering what else would happen.
I have never heard a silence like the one that filled those first few days. I live on a busy street, but only a handful of cars crept along the road, as if afraid to draw attention to themselves. No planes flew overhead, though the airport was less than forty minutes away. Even the church bells sounded muted.
Those days showed the best of our society. People lined up for blocks to give blood. Financial donations and supplies poured in. We heard stories of miracles, like Josephine and the men of Ladder 16, who survived the collapse of the North Tower. Of the two disabled women who were rescued by their aides, when their equipment failed. The man in the McDonald's, who brought people in the street to safety as they struggled through the smothering cloud of debris. Who didn't listen when others said, "Don't open the door!"
Those days showed us the worst of our society. Looters posed as rescue workers to rob buildings. Innocent Muslims were targeted by violent rabble-rousers, their mosques attacked with bullets. Muslim children were threatened. Sikhs--an entirely different religious group--were targeted simply because they wore turbans. People howled for blood, to 'nuke 'em til they glow!' People said, "Don't open the door."
And on the Internet, some people wrote that we deserved it. That we had it coming. Less than 24 hours after the attack, some people used words to hurt others already battered and in pain, then cried out that they only told the truth.
The thing about the Internet is, you don't have to look anyone in the eye. You don't have to listen to a woman sobbing, waiting to hear if her husband was alive or dead, or watch children as they try and understand what's happened, and why Mommy or Daddy will never come home. Why, a month later, they don't even have a body to bury. Why parents must file papers to declare their child--or, in some terrible, terrible cases, children--dead. To have a memorial, but not a final viewing. To say good-bye, without seeing. To go on through life, without knowing how or why. That part of the truth seemed overlooked by people vultures would be ashamed to claim kinship with.
When a person comes into an emergency room, bleeding profusely, the doctors work to save that person. They don't stand over the bleeding body and say, "Well, you know, if you didn't associate with violent people, or if you just stayed out of that neighborhood, this wouldn't have happened. I want you to really think about that. In the meantime, I'm going to tend some people who I think deserve it. If you say you're sorry, maybe I'll come back.
"I'm only telling you the truth. I'm not saying you deserve agony and death, but I'm not really going to help you, either."
Sometimes, I really despair of the species.
Yes, horrors have been happening all over the world, all the way back to Caine and Abel, if that's part of your belief system. Millions of people live in fear, who watch others from the corners of their eyes, with a hand on a weapon. And, yes, people die of starvation, are gunned down and dumped into mass graves. In some parts of the world, the body count eclipses the list of the dead tallied on 9-11. It happens everywhere. "Welcome to the world."
But it shouldn't happen!
People should not die like this, should not be enslaved, should not be tortured, starved, degraded because of their skin color, their religion, their nationality, or their gender. It should not be! And if you put a sliding scale to horrors, you will only make it worse.
Try telling someone:
"Well, if he never broke bones, you weren't really abused."
"It's not rape if it's your husband--you were unconcious at the time...you wore that dress...you went out with him...you're both women...you're both men."
"What do you mean, she hit you ? You're the man."
"If he never hit you, if he just fucked with your head, you're not a real abuse victim."
See where I'm going?
Evils happen. But does that mean we should 'just lie back and try to enjoy it?' Ideals may never be reached...but I really don't see that a reason to stop trying.
No, that's too small a word. Furious. Enraged. Wrathful. Infuriated. Roget's Thesaurus isn't helping me, here. I don't think the words exist.
"And when thou find'st a man that's like thyself..."
That's it, isn't it?
Even in my anger, in my rage and fury, I know there are people behind this. I don't understand these people, but they are still people. Oh, yes, I know. The U.S. has often been accused of turning a blind eye to Palestine in favor of Israel. We go in where we're not wanted, knock stuff over, re-arrange stuff, and sometimes, we just stop in the middle, get up, and leave. We're percieved as elitist bullies, who only get involved when it suits us. When we might profit from it, or when doing otherwise might infringe on our creature comforts.
And there are too many times when that shoe fits. I admit it. Happy now?
What's interesting is that these people will say in the same breath that we are too insular. That we can't be bothered to get involved on the world stage. Why haven't we solved everything? Why aren't we doing more?
Excuse me while I go beat my head against the wall.
Anti-American protests all over the world. What were we supposed to do? Send them to bed without supper? Impose sanctions? (You know, the thing they're mad at us for doing to Iraq?) "Oh, okay...we screwed up in the past...but you delivered terrible deaths to thousands of people, played merry cob with the economies of more than one nation, but because we've screwed up, we'll call it even here. Sorry."
Pakistan thinks we have enough to indict bin Laden. The Taliban won't turn him over. In fact, they've given him the green light to do pretty much whatever he wants.
So should we pull out, close our borders, refuse to interact with anyone on the List of Bad People? (You know, the inaction thing they say we do too often?)
I don't think anybody knows what to do, but everybody sure has an opinion of what we shouldn't do. Damned if we do, damned if we don't. Sometimes, I just want to kick the door open and go to Hell in style.
I hope it's a woman who kills him. That would be poetic justice. This creature, who gives misogynists a bad name, dying at the hands of a woman. What a beautiful image.
I wish we weren't dropping bombs. I wish we had a viable alternative. But you can only negotiate if the other side is willing to listen, to work with you. I hate the thought of war, of more suffering. I wonder...do these protesters think we're enjoying this? That we get off on slinging explosives from planes?
The money that's being used to finance Operation: Enduring Freedom comes from the resources of the nations involved. The time we spend on it is time we take from other things. Remember what I said earlier? Life goes on. Medicene is still very expensive. Schools are still failing in too many areas. Murderers, rapists, thieves, drug dealers, and con artists haven't take a sabbatical because of September 11. The homeless are still homeless, the abused are still being battered and betrayed. But now, we focus on our new war.
We will be paying for this war for decades to come. But I really don't see any other choice. We're doing the best we can. We didn't load up our planes and roar out to the Middle East on September 12, despite all the people who demanded we do exactly that. We did not lash out blindly, using the "Well, even if they didn't do this, they're damn sure guilty of something!" defense.
Personally, I'd love to gather up these "cell leaders" and stick them in tiny cells. They want a glorious martyrdom, to be lauded in heaven? Keep them from it. Separate them from their reward as long as humanly possible. Keep them alive. In a box. Alone. For as long as we can stretch out their lives.
Sometimes, I lie awake, thinking of what might come next. I wonder if I'm brave enough to live in this world. I wonder if maybe it's better to die by my own hand, instead of dying by germs tipped into my mail, or to see my country warped into something dark and hideous. Ghosts of 1984 seem to lurk everywhere, just waiting to slip out of the shadows and into the flesh. "Room 101."
I've been afraid, before. Of rape, of murder, mutilation, of fire, natural disaster, or disease. But it was personal, you see. Even if I ended up the victim of a Jeffrey Dahmer, it was still my fate. The death I fear now is faceless. It doesn't even know I'm here. It doesn't care. That's the sort of death that doesn't register body counts, not because of deception, but because they don't matter. Alive or dead is exactly the same. The supreme indifference of it chills me to my soul.
I feel like I'm alone here.
Live or die. Does anyone or any thing care?
Lately, I feel like I'm trapped in a bad science-fiction novel. Fanatics hijacking jet planes and crashing them into skyscrapers. Germ warfare and bombs. "Homeland Security." Soldiers with assault rifles patroling the airports. Things I used to read about in dystopia novels like The Handmaid's Tale are creeping into my life. My entire way of life is trembling on a precipice. Snippets of Freedom (the TV series) spark and die out in my head. We said it couldn't happen here.
Late at night, I hear jet planes overhead, too many, too often to be all civilian aircraft. Every time I hear one, I freeze, waiting for the engine roar to get louder. Waiting, because there's no time to escape, nowhere to go. Then I wonder if I should just feel the fear. More than one religion teaches that one person willingly taking on a burden can lighten it for someone who did not choose.
It's 2:30 a.m. There are planes in the air. I'm afraid. I'm afraid...but if Anyone is listening...give me this fear. Let me take it from someone whose earthly life ended on one of the planes, in the Towers, in the Pentagon. I know You transcend time. You can do this, right? You can make it so someone died without fear. Or at least, easier. Pain makes us all kin.
We all suffer. Grant that we might also be strong, to stand and say, "You will not be permitted to do this to others any longer."
I saw that on a t-shirt, and have carried it with me, in one form or another, over the years. For a while, it was even my .sig line. Six simple words, fortune-cookie philosophy. I've been thinking of them again, in the days following September 11.
And I don't know if I have the courage. I feel shrunken in the face of all that pain and destruction, the sheer weight of loss. Where do we go from here? How do I get there? And what will it cost us?
"There is a greater darkness
than the one we fight. It is the darkness of the soul that has
lost its way. The war we fight is not against powers and principalities
-- it is against chaos and despair. Greater than the death of
flesh is the death of hope, the death of dreams. Against this
peril we can never surrender. The future is all around us, waiting
in moments of transition, to be born in moments of revelation.
No one knows the shape of that future, or where it will take us.
We know only that it is always born in pain."
--Babylon 5, series created by J. Michael Stracyzinski
Mercy and compassion.
Not very popular terms, right now. Mercy is defined as "compassion that forbears punishing even when justice demands it ," while compassion is "sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it." (Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary)
The actual men who hijacked the planes are dead. It can be argued that we are visiting punishment on those who did us no harm. I'd say that argument is on shaky ground. This isn't the first time bin Laden and his network of terrorists have struck at us. Remember the USS Cole? The cell structure that makes up the terror network makes a Hydra monster: cut off one head, more spring forth.
I'd love to see this resolved without bloodshed. I don't think that's going to happen, though. I hope this doesn't spiral out of control. We're edging towards a very fine line between just reprisal and vengeance. Lord and Lady grant we will not cross it.
I understand what's behind the eyes of the people who fled the chaos in Yugoslavia, of the people who lived and suffered under apartheid. I recognize the betrayal and the despair. And I'm sorry.
For so long, we held up America as a place you could come to escape such things. We called it a place for freedom and safety--and despite our many flaws, I think we did a good job of providing both. Now, we are no longer safe. And I fear for our freedom.
Selene, You who are the Infinity of Solutions, work through us to bring about the best possible solution to this dilema. Hecate, Dispenser of Justice, when we reach the great crossroad, guide us along the right path. Stand as a shield between the innocent and those who mete out harm. Diana, be our source of strength and wisdom. Harm has been done. Beloved Goddess, Honored God, teach us how to heal.
I don't know where we go from here. Like with any loss, any grief, some moments are better than others. There are still times when I wonder if I'll make it through the next ten minutes, never mind the day.
I watched the second part of the Third Watch season premier. I sobbed through the last fifteen minutes. I didn't see the actors. I saw the real-life firefighters and police officers, the ambulance drivers. I saw them pull on their equipment, riding in on their trucks. And I knew so many never came back.
Oh, Goddess...hold them. Hold these ones who tried so hard and fought so bravely. Goddess, let me hold that image in my heart, from now until You call me from this life. Please, help me find a way to make a life that is worthy of their sacrifice. Because I don't know how to live, now. Why them, and not me? Why do the wrong ones die?
Throughout all of this, I have been painfully conscious of what I cannot do. I can't help out at Ground Zero. I can't give a job to the survivors who lost their livelihoods when the Towers collapsed. I can't help the businesses in the surrounding areas recoup their losses. I can't comfort the grieving. I can't go to Afghanistan, drag bin Laden out of his fucking hole and blow his head off. I can't string up his entire network and leave them twisting in the wind as an object lesson of what not to do.
I can't even insure that we'll do right by the Afghani people once we turn the Taliban into nothing more than a bad memory.
This is a time to stand up and be counted, to show our mettle. But what can I do? What can one lone disabled woman do?
I can work on myself. I can take an honest look at my own petty hatreds and fears, the assumptions I make about others. I can't make any sweeping changes, but I may be able to start a small change. A chain reaction begins with one action.
I stop, and send a silent blessing for safe passage for all aboard. A shadow has stained this land, and dimmed the light in the eyes of its people. But we're still here.