As I am writing this entry, the calendar reads 9/11/12. Hard to imagine that 11 years has passed since another ‘day that will live in infamy’ occurred. Like the day JFK and John Lennon were killed, most people can tell you where they were when they heard the news that terrorists had done the unthinkable and that countless lives were lost. I was working as a social worker in a nursing home called Golden Slipper Uptown Home in Northeast Philadelphia. The Residents were just finishing their breakfast as I walked into the day room. The television was broadcasting what I initially thought was a movie in which a plane crashed into The World Trade Center. It didn’t take long before I realized that this was no movie, it was jarringly real.
I had two immediate thoughts…the first was that I was grateful that some of these folks had dementia and had no clue about the events unfolding on the screen before them and the second was that I wasn’t going to give the terrorists my fear. I know that emotions such as fear and anger feed the common pot that I didn’t want to stir. I held strong in the face of tragedy and was of support to staff and those Residents who did have the mental capacity to comprehend. Some of them had survived WWII and the Holocaust, so this may have been re-traumatizing for them.
I also had concerns for my sister in-law and then brother in-law who lived in NJ, but worked in the financial district. I couldn’t reach her for most of the day and when at last I did, I was relieved to know that both of them were safe and sound. I had another friend whose son was initially among the missing, and whose photo was plastered on a wall in case someone should happen upon him. As it turned out, a police officer recognized his face as someone he had seen in a hospital and he and his father; cosmically coincidentally, also a (retired) police officer, were reunited. I heard numerous miracle stories, including people over-sleeping, missing rides, calling out sick, and the like, so that they were elsewhere when the towers fell or the Pentagon was under siege or a field in PA was bombarded. We have two choices about the way we view this dark day…through the eyes of fear and anger, or love and coexistence. While I mourn the loss of life, I celebrate the drawing together of people from all around the globe in the cause of healing the fracture in our lives. Philadelphia area singer-songwriter, John Flynn wrote a song not long afterward that so perfectly echoes my sentiments of that day and those that still resound a decade plus one later. I was in the audience when John performed this song, at the Philadelphia Folk Festival. God Bless The Whole World….No Exceptions!