By Dana Gornall
In historical events great men—so-called—are but labels serving to give a name to the event, and like labels they have the least possible connection with the event itself. Every action of theirs, that seems to them an act of their own free will, is in an historical sense not free at all, but in bondage to the whole course of previous history, and predestined from all eternity.
~ Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace
There are moments in history—pivotal moments—that we remember exactly where we were when they happened.
The day the Twin Towers fell, I remember very clearly. It started out like any day. My son, not yet two years old, woke me up early as he did every morning. I carried him downstairs and got him some breakfast, turned on the Disney channel and laid down on the couch, hoping to get just a little more rest before I started work. Being in my second trimester of pregnancy, the nausea had begun to wear off, but caring for a toddler and working a full time job while pregnant left me exhausted.
My son crawled up on top of me and laid his head on my chest as we watched television and I dozed off a bit.
Realizing that the time was slipping away, I set him down and took my shower. We drove to daycare, and he sang to me from the backseat. I sang along and because of this, almost didn’t turn on the radio. But as we neared the small house where I took my son every morning before work, I pressed the button on the radio, and heard the announcement. A plane had just crashed into one of the Twin Towers. I shook my head thinking, what a tragedy. I wondered if the pilot fell ill, or asleep.
As I dropped my son off, I chatted with the sitter about how horrible that was and the children ran around the room with the Disney channel blaring and toys littering the carpet. And everything in our world seemed normal.
Yet, it wasn’t. We all know what happened next.
Arriving to work, I walked into silence and we all sat in the lobby listening to the radio. We listened. Eyes wide, we listened as our world began to crumble. There was a plane in Florida, or headed that way possibly. There was another crash at the Pentagon. It was said that a plane that had been hijacked was flying right over our county.
And as we sat not speaking, fear seemed to sprout rooted tendrils that wound themselves through every breathable space in our bodies, and clung on tightly. Absentmindedly I placed my hand to my belly, thinking of that tiny life inside of me and of my son—obliviously playing in daycare. I wouldn’t have to explain this to him because he was too young, yet how would I ever explain it? How does one tell an innocent child about war and death and hatred?
The days that followed, we all sat perched on the edge of our living room couches and watched it replay over and over, as the planes crashed and the buildings crumbled. We heard people crying, saw blackened and scorched faces and clothes. Dumbfounded, we asked ourselves how this happened.
Some of us prayed. Some of us became angry. Some of us stockpiled weapons in fear. Some of us joined hands in peace. But none of us knew how to fix it because there was simply no going back. And the fear grew. Suddenly it became us vs them and the them began filling the circle even more. As the death tolls ticked higher and higher on both sides, it became unclear as to who was good and who was bad and where it all began and ended.
Of course we were on the good side, right? Aren’t we always on the good side?
While I wish we could say that this is done and behind us—a terrible story sewn into our history books—the fact is that humanity never seems to learn. Whether the fear is directed at the Russian people, the Chinese, the Germans, the Irish, the Vietnamese, the Japanese, the Iranians or the British, it seems to be the same story with a different title each time.
A few nights ago I received a text from my son, now 15 and no longer waking me up early every morning or watching the Disney channel. Swiping to the side I opened it up to see an image—a screenshot of the main page from CNN. White block letters along the bottom read: A Night of Terror in Paris, More Than 150 People Were Killed.
And so it begins. Again.
On the last day of summer, ten hours before Fall…my grandfather took me out to the wall.
For a while he stood silent. Then finally he said, with a very sad shake of his very old head, “As you know, on this side of the Wall we are Yooks. On the far other side of this Wall live the Zooks.”
Then my grandfather said, “It’s high time that you knew of the terribly horrible thing that Zooks do. In every Zook house and in every Zook town every Zook eats his bread with the butter side down!”
“But we Yooks, as you know, when we breakfast or sup, spread our bread,” Grandpa said, “with the butter side up. That’s the right, honest way!” Grandpa gritted his teeth. “So you can’t trust a Zook who spreads bread underneath! Every Zook must be watched! He has kinks in his soul! That’s why, as a youth, I made watching my goal, watching Zooks for the Zook-Watching Border Patrol!
~ The Butter Battle Book by Dr. Seuss
Editor: Ty H. Phillips