Saturday, September 10, 2011

A 9/11 Story

Christmas morning.  1974.  The house is numb with the overwhelming melancholy that crashed the party just as the last gift was opened.  My mother has initiated a slow reawakening, stirring the air with the smells of a holiday meal and the anticipation of friends and family to arrive.  I am huddled in a corner reading a brand new Nancy Drew.  I put my cheek against the cool, crisp pages and breathe in the pungent aroma of unspoiled type. 

As long as I can remember I have been a bibliophile.  In fifth grade I became so engrossed in "Harriet the Spy," I wanted to be her.  I began taking notes on the activities of my neighbors.  Scribbling the least interesting tidbits on an old 5 and dime store tablet, in hopes that sooner or later the pieces of my puzzle would tumble into place, revealing some sinister wave of crime on our sleepy little street.  The result was Mrs. Wooster, our school principal, calling me to her desk to discuss my punishment.  It seems my neighbor and classmate, Larry Nell had gotten a bit tired of my snooping, and when he found one of my little observances in a library book I'd recently returned, the die was cast.  This particular missive read, "Mrs. Wooster gets on my nerves."  Mea culpa.

In all my years of gorging myself on book after book, it wasn't until adulthood, as a homeschooler in fact, that I began reading some of the best literature of my life.  "Cry, the Beloved Country."  "How Green Was My Valley."  "To Kill a Mockingbird."  "Shepherd of the Hills."  And most recently, "Uncle Tom's Cabin."  When a good story gently unfolds before your eyes...  When experience and symbolism are so carefully and consistently woven throughout...  When the universality of the tale is so evident...  That is literature that speaks to more than the eyes or ears of the reader.  That kind of literature speaks to the heart, the heritage, the essence of humanity.  To be lost in the story of man's struggle to rise above, to follow the rolling hills and muddy waters of ordinary existence straight to the feet of Justice herself, to see victory as attainable for all mankind -- that is what draws me to a good book.  It is with such conviction that I pause to examine the "story" of 9/11.

A solid week of biographical and autobiographical accounts.  Documentary after documentary on the "rebuilding."  Endless speculation over 2001, and prognostication and suspicion over the possibility of attacks in 2011.  But where are we as a nation?  Are we better off than we were ten years ago?  Have the stories of heroism and loss made any difference at all?  As the tragedy of 9/11 continues to play before our eyes, does it speak to our hearts of justice, courage, kinship or America's struggle for God's blessing?  Ten years ago, stadiums full of U.S. citizens tearfully sang "God Bless America."  Did we mean it?  Do we care for God's blessing?  Do we even recognize the existence of God any more today than we did when we watched thousands of our neighbors perish in what some have said was a wake-up call to our backslidden country?  What have we, as a people done with the story that was written that clear blue September day?

The flags are in ribbons, or lie somewhere underneath the outdoor Christmas lights.  The simple kindnesses we witnessed for so many days and weeks after the attacks, have been replaced by rage at our airports.  The heads that were bowed in deep reverence for the pointless loss of life and a desire to find a Foundation on which to rise again, can't rise above the pillow on Sunday morning.  Eyes that shed tear after tear for those lost and those who had lost, now watch hour after hour of ego maniacal athletes and celebrities as they live and die in excess.  Multi-colored hands that were joined across "fruited plains," bi-partisan lines and societal classes, no longer reach out to raise up another, but crash down in frustration at the negotiating table, or wield the gun that generates yet another statistic in gang related news.  Where is Justice?  Where is Equality and Fraternity?  What has been our heritage, or even worse...

What will be our legacy?

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