Sunday, September 11, 2011

SWEET LAND OF LIBERTY…


Where were you when…

On this sad anniversary—a day of barbarous infamy, but also of incredible courage, when the worst and best of humankind was witnessed worldwide—the question will be asked repeatedly. I was in the home my father built, the place where I grew up, taking care of my 90-year old mother. The gal who is now Myladylove called: "A jetliner crashed into the World Trade Center," she said—then, "Oh my God! Another one just hit the other tower!"

For the next several hours, no one understood fully what was going on. We simply watched—Mom and I, and the neighbors who came by, in case we hadn't yet gotten the news…and stayed a few minutes or an hour to watch the drama with us. The images were there, on live television, delivered by shocked and mystified and often near-broken reporters; history being wrought before our stunned eyes. Death and destruction none of us could have imagined a few hours beforehand. News of another plane down in Pennsylvania. And a fourth jet which had slammed into the Pentagon. One of the greatest cities on earth brought to its knees. Buildings so tall they once soared into the clouds collapsing while we watched. People running for their lives…others jumping to their death. Flames. Dust. Smoke. Terror. Panic. What was happening! And why? WHY!

The answers, when they eventually came, were worse than we would, on that first 9-11 morning, have imagined. But one thing I did realize as that horrific event unfolded…the United States of America, and probably the civilized world, would never again be the same.

A few days later I sent in a postscript to run with my Sunday outdoor column. The original column was about a day spent floating and fishing on a certain river—the same river, as it happens, on whose banks I now live. I initially intended to pull that piece from the newspaper. Who would want to read about fishing in the wake of such tragedy—a tragedy still very much ongoing as rescue workers dug frantically through rubble in search of living victims. Surely everyone hadn't perished!

Instead, I wrote a postscript.

For what it is worth, here's that addendum:

*   *   *
My column was written just before Tuesday’s terrorist attacks began in New York City and Washington D.C., and the hijacked airliner which crashed in Pennsylvania. In the aftermath of such a horrific national tragedy, any recounting of a day spent float-fishing a local river seems banal, a frivolous recitation of a mundane outing.

And so it is.

Yet that's not to say such commonplace diversions are without significance or value. Outdoor recreation, like organized sports, music, and arts, are pastimes which enrich our lives in ways beyond necessity, and will forever remain one of the greatest, most cherished rewards available to those living in a free society.

It’s also one of the things terrorists hate most about America and the American way of life, this notion of individual freedom. The idea that folks such as you and I might—without governmental permission—simply drive into the country and float down a rural stream purely for fun.

Since Tuesday’s terrorist strikes, I’ve often found myself worrying about future implications. What have I—what have we all—lost?Like most of my neighbors, I spent many hours following the attacks glued to my television—appalled by what I was witnessing, sickened by its ruthlessness, furiously angry at its barbaric perpetrators. There was a very real sense of personal violation. And doubtless a measure of our national innocence fell along with those two tall buildings.

But I haven’t lost my sense of wonder regarding the natural world. What’s more, I intend to exercise my personal freedom by rambling woods and waters whenever possible.

Terrorists can only win what we’re willing to surrender—and I’m not giving an inch.

In that context, I sincerely hope this outdoor column will find some small merit.

———————

12 comments:

The Solitary Walker said...

I'm remembering, like all of us today.

Well written, Grizz.

Grizz………… said...

Solitary…

An awful, awful day…worse than we could have imagined, both in the immediate tragedy, but its aftermath—including the ongoing sickening and dying of so many "first responders," and of course, the way it has forever changed and restructured the world and our daily lives.

In no small measure, the freedom so many of us took for granted died that day…gone forevermore.

Bonnie said...

Thank you for your beautifully articulated account of your experience on that awful day. Ten years later it is still so difficult for the mind and heart to absorb such horror.

Gail said...

GRIZZ- so well written, with all the truth and heart and passioned anguish I have come to love from your words. That day my son was less that half mile from the attacks, his first year at NYU, at his dorm. He has been forever changed, as have we all. He volunteered at Bellvue and looked at hundreds of pictures people were showing in the hopes their loved one was seen alive. This is a day of large emotion for us all and I feel especially close to you. Intersting huh?
I love you
Gail
peace.....and hope for us all Amen.

Grizz………… said...

Bonnie…

On and off since posting this, I've been trying to watch some of the TV coverage. Trying is at best what I'm managing…but mostly failing.

I did watch constantly on that awful day, and days thereafter, in stunned horror, anger, disbelief. Now I still feel all those things, but also a great overpowering sadness, an emptiness and loss which moves me to tears. More raw today than ever and inconsolable. I can only manage a few minutes before I have to go outside. Maybe it's a sort of bottled-up grief for the people, country, freedom and innocence lost. But there's also a sense of guilt, maybe even shame, at those lives taken—lives so much more meaningful and productive and worthy than mine.

I've never felt this way before …but I do now, today, a decade down the road. And the feeling is just heartbreaking.

Grizz………… said...

Gail…

We have, for sure, all of us, been forever changed. I'm so glad your son came through safe. What it must have been for you, his mother, during those minutes or hours until you knew he was okay.

May God be with you, and your son, and all your family, on this day of remembrance.

Gail said...

HI GRIZZ - and "thank you" for your kindness and deep understanding. It took four days for my son to be able to call home - the phone towers were ALL out - he finally phoned on a special line that NYU set up for students - the line to call home went on for ever. He told me that the smell was like nothing he had ever smelled in his life - his memory is vivid. He considers himself a true New Yorker and American
Love to you
Gail
peace.....

Grizz………… said...

Gail…

Oh, wow. That must have been very traumatic for you…and I can't imagine how difficult it must have been to wait and worry. What a heart's relief it must have been, too, when you heard his voice.

You son has sure earned the right to call himself a New Yorker; America is honored by such men.

KGMom said...

Two responses--first, where was I? At work, in what turned out to be my last full-time job (although I didn't know that at the time). I spent the day at my computer, watching video, reading news from all sources.
Second, your affirmation of seizing joy wherever one may find it. Whether it's floating down a river, or watching clouds, or doing whatever simple pleasure soothes the soul--we MUST keep doing these things. Just because some people seek to take away our (or anyone's) humanity--we must keep being human. In the best way possible. And seeking beauty is one such way.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Very well said, Grizz. I am so pleased you did not withdraw that original column. We visited Ground Zero a few summers ago and found it a place of inspiration.
Today all our papers carry a photograph of a father, kneeling at the memorial, with his hand on his son's name. It is a moving testament to the whole thing.

Grizz………… said...

KGMom…

Unfortunately, the 9/11 terrorist attacks were definitely one of those "where were you? " moments in our collective history. A moment when everything changed.

As our country moves away from capitalism and ever-closer towards socialism, our freedoms, and subsequently our humanity, will continually erode unless we fight back with every fiber in our beings, by whatever means possible, in any place necessary, exercising our blood-bought right to retain those tenants which formed the foundation of our nation.

Grizz………… said...

Weaver…

Thank you. I'm glad I did go ahead and allow them to run the river-float piece, along with the subsequent addition—though I could have said that postscript better.

The events of 9/11 changed America forever. Not a day goes by wherein I fail to encounter some reminder that we now live in a post-9/11 world. On 9/11 a new reality took over, a harsher, crueler reality which draws on the wells of hatred and evil; a reality which has already cost us so many freedoms, and will doubtless rob us of countless more in years to come. I mourn what we've lost, and dread what we face.