It was only much later that I understood that reflexive reaction. Over more than seven decades, there had been other times of being jolted out of the smooth hum of daily life into awareness that the ground under our feet was not as solid as it seemed.
Pearl Harbor. The Cuban Missile Crisis. The weekend JFK was killed… But this was different. All that had happened Out There. With news of the Pentagon attack and the downed plane in Pennsylvania as well as the Twin Towers, we were being hit in the national nervous system, like a sudden punch to the stomach without warning.
On this anniversary weekend, we are flooded with images and words to try to make sense of that day. The two presidents of the decade stand side by side at Ground Zero to bear witness and offer prayers.
At the crash site of Flight 93, another eulogizes the victims. “There has always been a special place in the common memory,” Bill Clinton says, “for people who deliberately, knowingly, certainly lay down their lives for other people to live.”
The rest of us mourn silently for what we lost.
The terrorists that day took away not only all those innocent lives but a sense of feeling safe that will never fully return to those who survive. We now live in a world where distrust runs deep…