Thursday, September 11, 2008

Was it a Dream?

It seems like yesterday, yet so long ago. It was a day like any other: grown-ups at work, kids at school. Nothing special was supposed to happen this day; it was just another day. Now this day is so close and yet still sometimes fades like some distant memory or a very bad dream. At some point we stop and wonder if it really happened at all. Watching the chaos and confusion on the TV news made it all surreal, and yet there was no denying what was being seen live, moments and events unfolding before us as a movie’s very strange and twisted plot. So real, so very real, and yet …

The first plane had crashed into one of the Towers, so there were TV and video cameras trained on the already aflame Tower and broadcasting live around the nation, around the world. It was during this time as we watched the first Tower burn that another plane came from seemingly nowhere and … wait. Did it crash into the second Tower? Did we just see what we thought we saw? This could not be real; surely there could not have been two such occurrences on the same day at virtually the same hour! What was happening? My Dear God, will it end?

Working in a rather loud and chaotic environment, suddenly everything got quiet. There was little talk, hardly any movement. We sat transfixed on the TV screen trying to take in what we all thought we had just seen. Once in awhile, a glance at a co-worker hoping for denial but seeing instead confirmation. The phones that were usually constantly abuzz fell silent, and time stood still. For an eternity yet for a moment, life ceased. It was a dream, surely a dream. This cannot happen to us, this should not be happening at all!. Those poor people. Had they any idea what they were walking into? Did they somehow know that such a day as this would ever come?

No one can possibly be prepared for this. The TV news showed us people running away from the scene while police and firefighters rushed in. Utter chaos and confusion even as some were walking along some street away from the Towers as in a daze, not quite sure what to do or where to go. Suddenly, just as time seemed to begin its forward march, something else. Wait. Am I seeing a nightmare intensified? How can a whole Tower fall like that? And then the other. This is not real! Dear God, what is happening? Those people inside the buildings, those poor people … and the brave police officers, rescue workers and firefighters. Hadn’t they all just rushed inside these buildings to render aid? Who will save them?

Not much else happened that day, at least at work. The TV news continually replayed the crashes, the collapses. And it seems that the more often these awful moments were replayed, the further removed we were, the less real it seemed. We watched it over and over so much that it no longer seemed real at all. There were no coherent thoughts, nothing was happening. We, sitting so far away in relative comfort, could feel and share the confusion as we watched New Yorkers, our fellow citizens, walking out of Manhattan on streets and bridges normally cluttered with cars of all kinds. So many, moving so slowly and yet not moving at all.

I was awakened from my daze around 3:30pm CST by a phone call from my 13-year-old daughter. “Daddy, why did they do this? Is it true that there are Muslim terrorists who have attacked America and are out to kill American and Christian children? That’s what I heard today in school. Daddy, who are these people who want to kill us? Daddy, I need you to come home. Daddy, are you there?”

“Lots of people are confused right now, baby girl, but there are no terrorists out to get little children. What you were hearing is what happens when people are frightened and don’t know what’s really going on. You’re perfectly safe, dear child. You are protected by the Lord, and He will watch over you especially while you’re so afraid. I’ll be home before you know it. Just do your homework; turn the TV off. There is nothing you need to see right now. Daddy loves you.”

Suddenly I was violently shoved from my daze and confusion. Now I was angry and hurt. My precious child had been violated. The innocence of her age and youth had been shattered. Everything she had come to believe had been challenged by some notion that hers was no longer a safe world. New York was so far away and yet so near. If it could happen there, it could happen anywhere. It’s up to you, New York …

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