Fifteen years ago, a somber President G.W. Bush addressed a nation in shock – and said, among other things – “The world will see that the strength of this nation is found in the character and courage of everyday citizens.”
Fifteen years ago. It was a Tuesday. I was living in San Diego with my boyfriend at the time, going to San Diego State, and working as the office manager at a Borders Books. I was getting ready that morning for school and Chris was still sleeping. The Today Show was playing on the television, to keep me company as I got ready for my day – part of my morning routine. I remember passing through the living room thinking, “Oh, it must be an anniversary of ‘War of the World’s’ or something” as I absent mindedly glanced at the screen. And then the second plane hit – and I collapsed on the couch and became glued to the screen – paralyzed from doing anything other than to stare in disbelief at the television, and the incredible horror unfolding. How was this happening, in OUR country?
I grew up an Army brat in Germany. The Berlin Wall was still intact. Bomb threats to American schools were not uncommon. Having military personnel armed with AK rifles present in every day life was not only normal, it was comforting. But this. This attack. This was surreal. I was numb at the devastation of the world as I believed it to be.
That Saturday there was scheduled a huge multi-faith gathering at Balboa Park. I desperately needed to go. I needed to feel a part of something bigger than me, that was good, coming out of this. Chris didn’t care – his best friend’s birthday had been on September 11th, and they had not been able to go out and celebrate, so they had plans to go out and drink on Saturday. He didn’t really understand why I wanted to go, or how profoundly I had been shaken at my core. He thought I was being silly. We were already having problems, but how we both responded to this tragedy on such a grand scale really magnified our fundamentally different views of life and how the world works. In hindsight, this was the writing on the wall for the future of our relationship. Love is NOT enough.
I needed to do something positive, so all that week I took pictures. I took photos of all the American flags suddenly flying proudly in our Golden Hill neighborhood. I took pictures of all the flags flying from the tallest buildings in downtown San Diego. I took pictures of all the flags at the waterfront, and on the Star of India. I took pictures of the flags being flown in Ocean Beach, by the pier where a small shrine had been created at the base of the flag pole, and in the windows of the elementary schools there hung flags drawn and colored by school children.
It was comforting, seeing people from all walks of life, and from every area of town flying our American flag. This showing of unity and solidarity, and everyone wanting to be together as one was incredible. Whatever issues I had previously had with President G.W. Bush – and there had been many – all but evaporated with his ability to address the nation and provide unity, and comfort to a grieving nation.
Today, on this fifteenth anniversary of the most profoundly horrible thing to happen to our country, IN our country, I can’t help but be sad. I am disappointed – a bit disgusted even – by the state of the binary and vitriolic political climate today.
It is a bitter irony to me that our beautiful American flag that brought me so much comfort just by her abundant presence 15 years ago – that our Pledge to her can now ring so hollow. We may be one Nation, but we are completely divided. There is an enormous rift in the ability to provide Liberty and Justice for every person. God, please help us All.
I wonder what all those people who perished 15 years ago, would think about how far we have devolved, and how our political leaders are behaving today? What would they say, if they could speak to us?