by Alicia M. Rodriguez
It's about midnight on September 11, 2001. This morning when I woke
up I assumed the day would be filled with the normal stuff of my life
- walking my son to school, checking e-mail, coaching, working on the
launch of my site. The important things? After 9:00am it all changed,
forever. Like every other American I looked on with horror as I witnessed
the massive devastation of one of America's icons, the World Trade Center.
I couldn't help but remember my visit there last year with my family
and uncle, taking pictures from the Observation Deck. This building
teemed with life, with people working, with tourists. How could this
happen? And then, news of the seemingly invincible Pentagon, penetrated
by an airplane, not so far away. How could this happen? What does it
The World Trade Center and the Pentagon were attacked. But we were
all attacked. American innocence, or ignorance, complacency or arrogance,
depending on who you speak to, was attacked. We have now come to know
on a personal level what other countries have known. This is not TV
showing pictures of some far off land, of people we supposedly have
no connection to. These are our friends and neighbors. We experience
the insecurity of one day, one moment, the threat of violence, the dissemination
of long-held values. In one moment, our world view was shattered. Terrorism
had landed in the USA, "the land of the free and home of the brave".
Was this our wake up call? I try to separate the pain of watching the
video clips and ask myself, on a higher level, what is this about? How
will we define ourselves as individuals and as a country in light of
this barbaric act? How will we respond? Will we look for vengeance so
much so that it blinds us to any light there may be in the darkness?
Will we harbor hate so that it fills us as it has filled those responsible?
What has driven another to plan and implement such devastation of life
and how might we as a country have played a role, perhaps through our
own actions? How can we become a land and people of integrity, each
and every one of us, so there can be no foothold for this kind of act?
What can one individual do, me or you, to contribute to regaining peace
in our outer and inner world? What do we tell the children?
I am humbled. I share this experience with the people in Bosnia, in
Somalia, in Paris and Tokyo, in Ireland and Colombia, and elsewhere
in the world. And I am proud. There are extraordinary people in our
country who rally together, who pray together, who will not allow this
act to diminish us but instead will rise to redefine themselves and
their country. They will "wake up" to the knowledge that each
moment is precious, they will pay attention to what really matters,
their family, their friends, their well-being, another human being.
What will you do? Who do you need to forgive? Who do you need to hug
or tell about your love or pride or affection? What has been unsaid
that now needs to be spoken?
Someone asked me today, 'did you know anyone there?' I recognized the
question for what it really was. Were you connected to anyone there?
I wanted to say 'yes' when I realized this. It doesn't matter that I
didn't actually KNOW someone there. What mattered was that I WAS connected
to everyone there, in New York, at the Pentagon, everyone in Bosnia,
in Ireland and in so many other places. They could be my family, my
friend, my relation, and they are. They are my neighbors, countrymen
and women, my fellow human citizens. Things will never be the same -
I hope. I hope that we will never again take for granted our democracy
and our freedom. I hope that we take time for the people that matter
most to us. I hope that we will never watch or read about atrocities
in another land and distance ourselves from it. I hope that the next
time we have an opportunity to help someone, we don't consider our convenience
as much as our gift.
What will you do today, that will make a difference? How will you define yourself within this tragedy? What Phoenix will you discover out of the ashes of terrorism? If you have lost someone in this tragedy, my heart mourns with you. We have all lost our fellow men and women and children, and have been doing so for a long time in so many places in the world. It's just that we haven't known this in the way we know it today, September 11, 2001.
Alicia Rodriguez, M.A.