Thursday, September 11, 2008


Dear Sophie,
I know that you aren't another month old today. This one's a bonus. I felt I had to say something about Today. Today is September 11, 2008, and it is indeed a Today with a capital T. Today is the seventh anniversary of 9/11, the day that is forever a wound that will not heal.
On this day, seven years ago, a group of terrorists, a militant sect of a group of people called the Taliban, hijacked four airplanes. Two of those planes crashed into the beautiful twin towers in New York City, brutally murdering 2,684 people, not including the 147 people on board the airplanes, not including the hijackers. One plane was heroically taken back by the passengers, who crashed in the middle of a field in Pennsylvania, sacrificing their own lives to save countless others. One plane hit much closer to home.
My baby, we live in the DC metropolitan area. Seven years ago, your father and I lived in Arlington, a stone's throw from the Pentagon, where 125 people inside the Pentagon and 59 passengers of American flight 77 died.
Some say that every generation has a collective moment that everyone remembers exactly what they were doing, exactly where they were. Ask your grandparents what they were doing when they found out that John F. Kennedy had been assassinated, the day Martin Luther King, Jr. died, or when John Lennon was shot. For your father and I, we will always remember, with tears in our eyes, that we were out walking Janka, that we were home, and we were safe. That I had just graduated, and was still working in a restaurant and had the dinner shift that started at 3:45, and that your father had a job right across the 14th Street Bridge that he hated and had stayed home that day. That we could see the sickening smoke pouring out of the gaping hole in the side of the Pentagon for days. The smell of charred death. The frantic phone calls to friends from college that lived or worked in Manhattan to make sure everyone was okay, the frantic phone calls we received from my parents and other family and friends to make sure we were okay.
I sat in front of the TV in that little one-bedroom apartment on the first floor of the Windsor for hours during the following days. DC was all but shut down. National guardsmen stood with tanks and uzis on streetcorners. Life was surreal.
There was a woman, her husband worked in the Pentagon. He didn't work in the part that had been hit, but he never came home that day. They showed her on the news, sitting in the parking lot, waiting for him. People brought her things. A chair, food, water. She stayed, vigilant. Her husband was coming out. And I watched her, prayed for her, hoped for her. She stayed in that parking lot, not even going home at night to sleep. And one morning, two weeks after, I watched as she stood from that chair someone had brought her, weeping, as she turned to leave. And I wept with her. He never came out.
In the days and months after the attacks, we came together, despite all of our many differences. We nursed each other. We flew flags, we lit candles and we mourned together, as a nation. And we stood strong, triumphant, because We Are Americans. A year and some months after 9/11, your father and I stood at Ground Zero, in Manhattan, in the freezing cold, and hugged each other and cried.
When you are older, I pray that your life will never be touched by tragedy. That all of the hate and the war and the religious zealots in the world will be over. But, my baby, we brought you into the world during a time where all of these things exist.
Because if we stop living our lives, if we pause and let a little shimmer of fear enter our souls, we have let them win.
And we can never, never ever, never let them win.

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