Monday, September 11, 2006

If There's A Heaven I Hope It's This

So today it's been five years since a group of previously unknown religious terrorists ripped a gigantic hole in America's psychic landscape.

I mourn today like everyone else, but I have to say, I think most of the emphasis is all on the wrong things by and large. Leading up to today was what seemed to me a frenzy-whippin-uppin 9/11 revival. My inbox has been filled with “NEVER FORGET” messages from everybody from cousins around the country to Nancy Pelosi. The media has been clawing its way to the anniversary with increasing intensity. Even The Plain Dealer ran a front-page story last Friday: “9/11: Is N.E. Ohio Ready?”

Yet thanks to the continuous hype and banter about the past, little time is left for thinking about future.

Look. Don’t get me wrong. That was a horrible, horrible day. Almost unbelievable, really. But what a lesson, and you’d think that the richest nation in the world with a history like the one we have would have better ideas for follow-up.

I really debated about whether to mention it on this blog. But when I saw that cheesy PD headline, something in my head cracked.

Too bad, I had actually been thinking about those events a little over the past few days. I remember exactly where I was. I had just put my then first-grader on the bus, and was getting ready to settle in to nurse my one-year-old daughter. All of a sudden, while getting my Today show dose, events began to unfold before my eyes as I watched the second tower get struck in real time. Positively surreal. I called my mother and told her to get upstairs and turn on her television, because something crazy was happening. I called my then-husband, his sister Diana – who was evacuated from her office in downtown Cleveland’s tallest building -- and my friend Lynne, who lives and works a stone’s throw from Hopkins International. I went through the rest of the day in a mental haze, strolling through the grocery store and running into friends and neighbors whose reactions ranged everywhere from complete terror to a sort of numb frustration. I remember that afternoon, waiting to get my son off the bus, as people started to finally come home to their families. My friend Kate and I stood on the lawn in front of our firefighter friend’s house, and remarked just how frustrating it was to get all whipped up and have no idea where to direct all the anger. Al-Qaida was yet a mystery.

Sure, 9/11 bothers me. Such an enormous loss of life in little more than one fell swoop and with such ferocious violence is stupefying. It bothers me that Flight 93 passed right over my home. It bothers me that Rich Madden, a jovial classmate who was a familiar face about the Denison campus, was one of the people incinerated in the Towers. It bothers me the way the crews aboard those planes must have died. It bothers me most of all how many firefighters, police officers, and paramedics were killed in one fell swoop in the line of duty.

But what bothers me more than any of that is the fact that life hasn't changed that much for the rest of us. We're not unlike those people who got on planes or went to work that day and didn't come home. In an instant, it could be over for any of us. Do we live any differently? Do we work harder, love more fiercely, tend to our passions more devotedly?

I suspect the answer is no for many of us, yours truly included on a lot of days.

What would the 3,000 people who died five years ago think about that? Imagine if they had one more chance.

This is another favorite Mary Chapin Carpenter song of mine from the 2004 release mentioned on Friday. It's about an ideal place called heaven, but most of us would probably say it would be pretty nice to live in a place like this right here on earth. A lot of it has to do with living in the moment and treating each other a lot better. No harm trying.

In My Heaven
Nothing shatters nothing breaks
Nothing hurts and nothing aches
We've got ourselves one helluva place in my heaven
Looking down at the world below
A bunch of whining, fighting schmo's
Up here we've got none of those, in my heaven

There's pools and lakes and hills and mountains
Music, art, and lighted fountains
Who needs bucks here, no one's counting
In my heaven
No one works, we all just play
We pick the weather everyday
If you change your mind, that's ok, in my heaven

Grandma's up here, Grandpa too
In a condo with to-die-for views
There's presidents and movie stars
You just come as you are

No one's lost and no one's missing
No more parting just hugs and kissing
And all these stars are just for wishing
In my heaven

There's little white lights everywhere
Your childhood dog in Dad's old chair
And more memories than my heart can hold
When Eva's singing "Fields of Gold"

There's neighbors, thieves and long lost lovers
Villains, poets, kings and mothers
Up here we forgive each other, in my heaven

For every soul that's down there waiting,
Holding on, still hesitating
We say a prayer of levitating, in my heaven

You can look back at your life and lot
But it can't matter what you're not
By the time you're here, we're all we've got
In my heaven

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