My daughter was 6. We had moved back to the Poconos, and I was commuting down to my office in Montgomery County, Pa, that year, and I would drop her off at her Montessori school on my way.
That morning, after I did so, I tuned to a news station.
At first, it seemed like I was hearing about an awful aviation accident, like Flight 800. . The news reporters were almost incredulous: “A plane….has hit the World Trade Center!”
I drove on. And then, of course: the second plane.
I called my husband, who at first was rather cavalier about it. Should I turn around? Was school cancelled? No, it wasn’t. I drove on, away from home and my child, my anxiety increasing with every mile. Then the school did decide to send the kids home; my husband picked up our daughter. So she was safe with her father. I drove on.
I arrived at my office, having heard more about the day’s events than my colleague or our secretaries, who had the radio in the office tuned to a “Clear channel” type station which I don’t even think interrupted the Muzak with the news. I sat there. I was crying.
I was crying because by this time it was clear that this was an Islamist attack. (And yes, on that day we heard news reports about celebrations in the mosques, although now, those reports have been scrubbed, and we mustn’t mention them, have to pretend we don’t know they happened). And what I thought, what made me cry, was: in this country, we have freedom of religion. We will not be able to identify who may be an Islamist! Any of our neighbors could convert and begin bombing, poisoning.
Farewell the tranquil mind.
For days, I cried when I saw the awful picture of the burning towers, so like the ill-opened Tarot card. I fantasized about how wonderful it would be If the attack had been foiled, and Leno and Letterman were making jokes about those idiots who actually thought they could destroy New York City with a few boxcutters! Actually thought they could topple the World Trade Center! The studio audience guffaws! And we would never know how close we had come…..how I longed for that blissful ignorance.
Life went on. I continued my commute, but from that day on I listened to KYW News Radio every minute I was on the road, so I wouldn’t be taken by surprise if—when—the next attack occurred.
9/11 blighted the security of my motherhood, siphoned from my absorption in my career.
But oh, I’m glad I didnt know then what I know now: that instead of surveilling and curtailing this vile bloodthirsty creed, instead of keeping its adherents at a distance, our country, inexplicably, embraced it and them! Their number as immigrants increased! Mosques proliferated!
I was furious when my daughter’s Montessori school, that year, decided to teach the kids about Ramadan. I wanted my daughter taught to duck and cover at the sight of a hijab. That, in retrospect, was my first clue.
Oh, for a while I thought it was kind of…exemplary. There were no incidents of backlash against Muslims. The Koran sold out in bookstores. America had to be the most tolerant nation ever to grace the face of this benighted planet.
But now, I feel we missed an opportunity. Or rather, we were deliberately steered away fro an opportunity, by Bush’n’ Blair an their “ religion of peace!” propaganda. Whose side were they on?
Let’s suppose America had displayed a justifiable, universally expected suspicion of, dislike of, nay, hatred of, Muslims, just some basic instinct for self-preservation!— in the wake of 9/11. Could we possibly be any more vilified by the Red-Green Alliance that we have been and presently are, despite the unprecedented tolerance, the humility and self-examination we exhibited?
I do not think so.
We protected and nurtured a scorpion in our bosom. Our vey breast is scarred and withered and hardened with its poison. My life was shadowed, yours was , too, O Ratty.
”We will never forget!” Remember those T-shirts, bumper stickers?
A promise broken, buried in spurious, sanctimonious, traitorous falsehoods.
Do not forget.