Sunday, May 08, 2011

The day to celebrate hasn’t yet arrived

Where were you when you heard commercial airline planes had crashed into the World Trade Center? Or the Pentagon? Or that that one had crashed in a Pennsylvania field on its way to a Washington landmark, possibly the White House, on Sept. 11, 2001?

The events of that day created a picture you won’t ever forget.

We know where we were and even remember every detail of that day, and the days that followed, because it was more than somber, it was sobering. In our minds that day changed everything.

Now, nearly 10 years later, we mark a new memory in our minds' indelible ink -- the killing of the man largely blamed responsible for the terrorist events that killed nearly 3,000 people on U.S. soil.

When I heard the news of Osama bin Laden’s death I was watching the end of an episode of "Treme," an HBO series depicting another American tragedy -- New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

As I watch TV these days I find myself a slave to not only the ripped-from-the-headlines dramas, but also my smartphone, obsessively turning it on and off to allow the programs for email and text messages to update. (The latter obsession being the demon my husband would like to cast out.)

As he sees it, it’s not enough that we’re there on the couch, together, that matters anymore. With the constant contact of thoughts and ideas swirling around the ether, it’s what the world has to say about what we’re seeing that adds the spice.

It’s both alarming and amazing: We witnessed revolutions and every manner of revulsion alike, with strangers we know only by their avatars.

It is what it is, I tell myself in a brief sadness for the seeming demise of the simple life. Taking stock of an electronic timeline is just part of our present and probable future:

At 8:40 p.m. My children, just barely ideas before the first anniversary of 9/11, were now peacefully asleep upstairs.

At 9 p.m. we are watching television on the couch.

At 5 minute intervals I check my phone.

Nothing out of the ordinary.

Until 10:43 p.m. when the New York Times email alert read: "Osama bin Laden is Dead."

For a moment I wondered if his previously reported health problems had caught up with him. But opening the email I saw the word "killed" and realized it was not incidental.

I didn't feel anything. Numbness, perhaps. Definitely not the celebratory vibe that took hold overnight and lasted well into the next morning. I didn't even feel a sense of relief.

It's not over. We haven't closed the book on terror, or even finished the chapter. We've just torn out one sheet of paper as the prevailing wind fans all the other pages.

But it's not fear I'm feeling, either. It’s more of a low-grade dread. This interconnectedness we feel online offers the biggest disconnect of all:

As the picture on the television (now changed to a news broadcast) shows celebratory crowds in Washington and New York, I feel even greater dismay.

Not for the first time, I stare down at my phone and realize the crowd streaming into my life via the pound sign, are merely adding noise to my life instead of nuance.

I stop checking messages. I can’t be a witness to spontaneous outbursts of celebration. I can’t help them grow.

As a mother, I’m finding it’s the line I can’t cross.

There is something inherently wrong about celebrating a murder, regardless of how reviled the character.

May 2nd was an historic day, and one that will be pondered well into the infinite future. It was a day of reckoning. But it was not a day for jubilation. The day we all stand together as mothers and brothers and friends in reconciliation; that will be the day to celebrate.

1 comment:

Scott said...

Contemplative post. Alot of the people who actually went through the events of 9/11 didn't feel like celebrating either. There was a local woman interviewed that day, at the fire station where she worked. On 9/11, she was at the World Trade Center, training (as I recall) in finance--in fact, she was well on her way to a big finance career. And she escaped, just after a plane hit her tower. The experience had such an impact on her that when she returned here to Northwest Florida, she gave up her finance job, and got a job as a clerk at her local fire station, where she still works. She told the reporter that when she heard of Bin Laden's death, she didn't jump up and cheer. Instead, she sat quietly, with a feeling of inner peace.

On a lighter note: Happy Mothers' Day to you!