Rise Up In The Darkness

The teenager who joked with me over physics and algebra homework tonight was 6 months old the morning of September 11, 2001. He spent that day like many other 6 month olds spend their days, exploring his world and being saved from his own curiosity by mom.

That morning after I got tired of hauling him back from the edge of the bed he was intent on crawling over I took him downstairs to safer level terrain. I turned on the television to check the news like I did every morning back then. At first I was horrified by what I saw. One smoldering tower. Not long after, while all the reporters and newscasters were struggling to make sense of what they were seeing, one plane, another tower, and I was pissed.

At that point I understood what was happening. Why did people think, and still think, that kind of wretchedness served their cause? I didn't care what the cause was. These were arrogant fools.

But the news kept coming about just how wretched humanity had been to itself that day. The Pentagon, a field in Shanksville, PA. The anger turned to fear as I realized that some of the people living through the horror unfolding on my television screen were likely people I knew, my family knew, friends knew. They could be friends and family.

My son played at my feet unaware that the world was going through a radical upheaval the likes of which it is still reeling from 16 years later.

Dear God have mercy on us, I prayed, we are such wretched souls to do this to each other.

I started cleaning because what else was I going to do? When I could get through on the phone I had my mother and father contact friends I knew at Ground Zero and check in with their families.

Friends sat with me, helped me clean, played with the chubby ball of energy that my son was. Kept him from sticking his little fingers into electrical outlets and such. I fed him through my tears, I think I fed my friends too.

One tower fell. Brave men and women trying to rescuse survivors became victims. Their surviving colleagues, before the dust settled, walked into the darkness to see who they could save. Ordinary men and women rose up in the darkness to see who they could save.

By the end of the day the other tower had fallen. A pit of smoldering rubble become the resting place of so many. Fires burned at the Pentagon. We understood what had happened in that Pennsylvania field.

My children have known no other world than this one shaped by the horror of that day and the struggle by governments and individuals to find the appropriate response. I'd like to think that I'm raising the child who played safe and secure at my feet that day to be the kind of person to rise up in the darkness to see who he could save.


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