Friday, September 12, 2014

Silent Skies

{Reflections on 9.11}

So many things in life we don't notice or pay attention to until they are gone. Somehow we tend to notice absence more than presence. In most cases, this is indeed an unfortunate habit of our species.

We are this way with the weather. For example, we may not notice or appreciate a string of sunshiny days, but of course we love and miss them when the rain comes and we are wet on our way to and from wherever. We are this way with our homes. Day after day we come and go, we cook and sleep and live, but until we are away from home we often don't notice how dear that place is to us. We are this way with each other. Sadly, it's too common to have a list of regrets, words left unsaid, and an acute awareness of how much a person meant to us after they are no longer with us.

This is also true with airplanes. All day every day, planes and jets and helicopters fill the skies above us. The roar is always long and loud yet somehow it fades into the background noise of life. The long, white jet streams that trail behind begin to blend into the clouds. From every country on the planet, woven through timezones and across culture and language barriers, this magnificent thing happens every day. Air travel. And rarely do we encounter any issues in getting from place to place. Perhaps a delay or a change of flight numbers or planes, but considering the mound of obstacles working against the whole system, the mishaps are few and far between.

Until the evening of September 11, 2001, I had never lived in or even imagined a world with silent skies.

It was a morning like every other. But then, the days that make history or define our lives usually start out that way. I was only days into my seventh grade year at BGMS. I'm sure by the eleventh of September I was still choosing from my fresh supply of new school clothes, although I cannot for the life of me remember what I was wearing that day. For some reason, what comes to mind, is a medium blue v-neck shirt with the v lined in a satin trim of the same shade. I'm sure I was wearing some form of bell bottoms with some awful embroidery or print or pattern since they had made a major comeback at that time. But of course in seventh grade, no one does fashion well, and I am sure paired with my long, poker straight hair it was a mess.

I hated starting my day with shop. I suppose I thought it was cool that my school offered things like shop, but they were not as cool as they could have been since they made me take a course like shop. It might not have been so bad if it had not been at 8:30 in the morning or something like that. I guess I just found it irresponsible to have awkward and immature seventh graders working with power tools when most of us had just rolled out of bed and most likely had not eaten our Wheaties for breakfast. Also, the teacher was this small sarcastic man with a very dry sense of humor. You could never really tell when he would use it for good or evil. He just didn't always help in getting the day off to a good start. He always had the news on from a television that hung from the ceiling in the corner of the room. We would sit at long tables and listen to instructions before going to work in the shop. Usually we would chat amongst ourselves while he got things ready and we waited for everyone to arrive. But that particular morning as we all trickled into class, our eyes quickly became glued to the corner TV, our heads turned upwards. Without words we came to the conclusion that no progress would be made on our clocks that morning.

If I'm being completely honest, I didn't even know what the World Trade Center was until that moment. But, like I said, so often we don't acknowledge or recognize even the things that take up the most room in our lives until they are falling apart or caving in all around us or God forbid, until they disappear all together. It is one of the saddest facts of life that we tend to feel and acknowledge emptiness and loneliness always more than abundance and presence.

All day long as we moved from class to class the tragedy unfolded on outdated roller TVs in every subject. We were stunned and confused and hurt like the rest of the world that day. Of course those immediately affected cried heavier tears and carried more ache in their hearts. But, somehow even though the World Trade Center or United Airlines, or Shanksville, Pennsylvania had never been a part of the majority of the world's vocabulary, we all hurt deeply that day. We all changed that day.

Maybe we are separated by borders and governments and oceans and language and culture barriers, and even by disagreements and different ideas about life and the way the world should work. But I think above all of that and though we may never say it, we have this feeling that we've got to have each other's backs. Together we saw in that moment how dark the would could be if we did not. How silent the skies could be.

I remember a lot of things from that day and the weeks and months to follow. I remember watching the footage of the towers falling over and over again. I remember that you couldn't escape it. I remember that even if you didn't turn on the television the images would be delivered to your doorstep on the front page of every newspaper and it would be discussed clearly or through static on every radio station as well. I remember tears of anxiety and worry as we shuffled around school that day. Friends with pilots for parents or relatives living or working in one of the attacked areas. I remember each class that day being progressively emptier as classmates were picked up by their parents to face the fear and uncertainty together. I remember countless teachers and adults and even my parents trying to find words to talk us through it. I remember that there usually weren't any. I remember hearing over and over again that my life had changed forever, that I would never forget this, that nothing would ever be the same. I remember how every day since then I have watched those statements become more true. I remember details and updates rolling in every few minutes, and government security colors being their brightest and most alarming shades for weeks.

But mostly I remember standing in my driveway a few days later and hearing a sound I never realized I would miss. I remember looking up and hearing the long, loud roar and watching that airplane soar across the sky. I remember this sensation-this deep understanding that no matter how terrifying or dark or awful life gets, we must always find the courage to take to the sky again. That moving forward is a way of life; a necessity for life. Moving forward and flying after we've fallen hard is the only way to heal.

Mostly I remember the silent skies.

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