I am a child of the “cold war.” The remnants of the Viet Nam War were going on during my first five years here on earth, but I knew nothing about it then. I worried for no war. I had heard about “the bomb” and the possibility of hiding under my school desk in case of a nuclear attack, but I never had to practice it. It was only the occasional fire drill that put me on the alert – and that one time a giant wasp landed on Scott Dech’s head in Mrs. Mazcko’s first-grade classroom. I only ever feared close-up stuff like the creepy guy who trolled around town in his beige-yellow van with no windows, or the older kids who once chased my friends into the woods. Full-scale war or my country being invaded was the furthest thing from my mind.
Until this day, sixteen years ago…
It was a stunningly beautiful late-summer morning. I was coming up on celebrating my second full year in recovery from my addictions; and I was thrilled to be packing up my apartment in the city to move to a safer place in the suburbs. In addition to that, my best friend was getting ready to get married in less than two weeks. She and I had planned to go to lunch that day to talk about last-minute preparations, and the excitement of a dream wedding coming true. Little did we know that our lunch plans would be thwarted, along with the life plans of thousands of our fellow Americans.
After the first plane crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center, my sister called me from work. She was in the break room watching the news and she called to tell me about it. As we were talking and she was trying to relay the information about this “accident,” I remember her becoming annoyed and saying, “Geez, why do they keep replaying this? We don’t need to see it again and again.” But it wasn’t a replay that she was seeing; it was the second plane, crashing in to the South Tower. Her next statement was something like, “Holy shit! This is no accident!”
That day is burned into my memory. The whole day. The contrast of the serene and perfect weather against the horror of high-jacked planes being used as weapons, people jumping from buildings, firemen and police officers dropping like flies, and the city I have always loved being destroyed before my eyes on national television is something I will never forget. And, the naivety that I grew up with was erased forever.
A lot has happened since that day. Sixteen more years of recovery, three more moves to new dwelling places, two beautiful children born to my best friend and her husband, and one knight in dull, weathered armor came my way and swept me off my feet. That knight and I have gotten married and I have also become an aunt four more times. My mom has survived breast cancer, and so have I. My sister texts me from work now instead of calling, and my best friend and I still plan lunches that are sometimes thwarted by outside influences.
But what sticks in my gut the most when I think of all that has happened over the last sixteen years, is the unrest of my country. We have gone from a united show of patriotism and brother-helping-brother immediately following that horrible day, to a nation of finger-pointers. Somewhere along the way, we have forgotten to be grateful for the simple fact that we live in a free country. Somewhere along the way, we have forgotten to respect each other when we voice our opinions. Somewhere along the way, we have forgotten that it is okay to pray anytime and anywhere, no matter what our faith. Somewhere along the way we have forgotten to care about each other and the unity of our country, and instead only care about ourselves and what our country owes each one of us.
Today, I fear North Korea. Today, I fear Al-Qaeda and ISIS. But sadly, today my greatest fear is that my country will implode from the unrest within before any of those groups have a chance to harm us again. Our 39th President, Ronald Reagan once said: “If we ever forget we are One Nation Under God, then we will be a nation gone under.” Today, I fear that he was right.