Friday, September 11, 2009

Thinking of Blue Skies...

Today is a day of reflection for most. Where were you, how did you first hear, what were the first images you saw? I remember it vividly: the early telephone call, the assurance that my brother was OK, then the hours spent on a sofa in a western Canadian city far removed from the chaos, but still sharing the same glorious blue sky on a perfect yet perfectly devastating day.

It seems strange to access those memories, almost like an emotional recall acting exercise; I am really not a fan of 'going to those places' but it makes for a better performance. Okay, yes, now I'm remembering...but I'd rather not share. I'm sure you all have your own painful and confusing memories, and they are personal. One memory, however, I will share. It took place the next day. My parents were still away and I was sitting at my father's desk on his computer, watching the tiny Sony 13 inch TV he had resting on a small console by the window that framed the sky and an ocean view. I spent a lot of time in that office. It was dusk on the night of the 12th, and the CNN cameras were locked on the smoldering wreckage, the frame stationary; the shattered base of the towers bringing enough energy and movement to the screen that a pan or a zoom was unnecessary. I remember so clearly thinking, as the true horror of the spectacle was setting in, that things would never be the same. I couldn't fathom, for the life of me, how I could ever experience life through the same pair of eyes. I sat there, trying to make sense of that strong, complicated thought and I couldn't. I just knew it to be true.

Now I sit at a different desk in front of my own computer, with a different view of the same brilliant blue sky and a much bigger TV. Looking back, what are those things that I thought wouldn't be the same? No doubt our sense of security at home and abroad, politics, the economy, travel and obviously New York City itself. Those things have all played out. We now get to the airport 3 hours ahead of time and expect to see one of those Homeland Security leaflets in our rollie suitcase. We're conditioned to keep our eyes open for 'suspicious activity' as we are no longer oblivious to the hatred that exists towards this country and our way of life. We demand more transparency and accountability of our government, hold them to a higher standard if you will, and the new President is thankfully a shining example of such. We've weathered storm after storm of economic turmoil, the most recent shaking this and other countries to their core. Most significantly though, the effects of that devastating day shattered the shiny veneer that was our way of life. Because it really was just a veneer, a fancy piece of fake mahogany that was glued to a foundation of porous particle board. We had existed in a vacuum for too long, oblivious to the discontent; our shaky foundation had held up longer than it should have.

What about those other things though, the intangibles that I felt had already changed the moment the devastation began? Joy...Hope...Love...Grief. Were we relegated to feeling paler shades of grey instead of black because no personal experience could be as grievous as 9/11? And on the same hand, was it was inappropriate and perhaps impossible to ever feel incredible joy and happiness again? How could we have hope when the cards seemed stacked against us, and all it seemed that we could do was hope to survive? I struggled with emotions -what I naturally wanted to feel in a moment versus what I felt I should- because of how my brain would contextualize my own situation. I was lucky, blessed even. I had lost no one I knew but countless others had, so I had to honor their pain, and a country's. The ash seemed everywhere.

Today, that dusty grey remnant of the Towers, the Pentagon and flight 93 have been swept up by the wind and taken out to sea, or swept under the rug, depending on how you look at it. But regardless, we humans have proven to be quite the survivors. We adapted. We adapted to all the changes that took place around us, and though it seemed frustrating at first, we handled it and now accept our new reality, hopefully with a keener sense of understanding and perception. And as history has proven again and again, our hearts and souls have healed. Time dulls the pain, opens the door slowly to joy, until one day you feel whole again. Our capacity to feel love, to connect to others, to dream, is both mind boggling and awe inspiring to me. It so much more than neuro-receptors and the amygdala section of the brain.

In surviving, we had and still have the chance, even the responsibility to forge ahead. Don't you want to make something out of your life, leave a mark on society for the better, like right now? I know I do, and think I have finally found my unique path in which I can do so. I also, however, am reminded today how important it is to leave a mark on the people around you, the people that are your family and friends, and you can do that simply by sharing your love. It is our spiritual duty and our great gift. We have such capacity for love and such capacity for hatred. Let us chose the former. No man is an island.

I started out this post because I was going to link in the one year anniversary of a certain metamorphosis that took place a year ago tomorrow for me and all that has transpired since. It seems trivial now, in the context of today's memorial and the personal exploration I have done in writing this post. Perhaps I will write about it tomorrow as the past year has truly been life changing. But perhaps I wouldn't have been able to go through with that symbolic change if I hadn't had my eyes opened 8 years ago. Perhaps. So I sit here, thinking, grateful for what I have, focused yet idealistic on what is to come and reflective on what was.

Take the day to honor those lost and those that fight. And most importantly, honor your humanity and your capacity for love. It is a gift.

Be back soon,

All Things T


3 comments:

annehager said...

Beautifully written post, Taryn. And you are quite right, as things will never be the same. 8 years later: 19 Hijackers + 2,993 civilians = 19,886 dead in Afghanistan and 733,232 dead in Iraq. And it goes on.

Taryn O'Neill said...

I didn't have the heart nor the stomach to go into that side of what today marks- it's too much to fathom. Thank you for the kind words Anne.

Darryl said...

I agree with Anne. A beautiful and inspiring post, resounding with truth and clarity. Let us be the most gracious and loving people we can.

It's great to see you not only being so contemplative and reflective, but also sharing your thoughts and feelings with us. I think both of those things are important for everyone to do, though it can be so rare that any of us slows down enough to do so. Thanks for the reminder. :)