Monday, September 11, 2006

Look both ways, but cross the street

Dear Annabel,

I shouldn't be watching television today. It's not even 8 a.m. and already I've flashed the finger (you will know the one) twice in the direction of the television screen, aimed at Matt Lauer and dubya. (I usually use my index finger during these most egregious gestures of inarticulation, but not today.)

On this day five years ago, at 8:57 a.m., I was sitting in my car in the parking lot at work. Stunned. I thought a small plane had gone off course and struck the World Trade Center. I shut the car's engine off, ran upstairs and told the only other soul in the newsroom to turn on the television because a plane had hit one of the Twin Towers. When the picture faded in, we watched as a second plane hit the other tower.

This was no accident.

I don't think I've ever been so stunned or quiet or uncertain in my life. What was happening?

The day went on like that, and the feeling continued into the next, and the next and the next. Whole months went by in a fog.

Things changed. People were nicer to each other (for a time). We made decisions because of (rather than despite) the tragedy. In my case, the hopelessness I felt made marriage and children important where it hadn't been before. It made YOU important.

Then time wore on and we found ourselves in a war that seems meaningless; a war on the crime of terrorism that is as "winable" as the decades-long war on drugs. We find our constitutional rights eroded, and we accept it as the price of safety. We have gone from a nation united in tragedy to one that is divided by ideology.

You will attend your first day of pre-school on this tragic anniversary -- September the 11th. I wonder what will you ultimately learn from this new milestone, school? I wonder what legacy we are handing you and your classmates?

I know you cannot be safe. None of us can. And yet I am a part of this collective anxiety in which our bodies respond to Code Orange as if it had meaning other than to instill fear and loathing. I want to put it all into perspective, but the constant coverage of what-ifs and could-bes makes it difficult to remain calm.

Home of the free? The brave? Not anymore.

Perhaps this is my cause, Ittybit. Something I want for you more than anything else. To realize our time here is brief and some of it will be tragic. There will be sadness for which we cannot prepare, and yet we have to be brave. To not give in to fear or hatred because it is likely to lead us down the wrong path.

I want to tell you to take chances, my little girl. Play in the mud and the muck and the paint. Get dirty. Look around and take it all in. Take precautions, too, but don't let them take over. Look both ways before you cross a street, but cross the street.

And please, little one, try to play nice, OK? I want you to be aware that you are not alone in this world.

Love,
Mommy.

3 comments:

Andrea said...

These are the same things I want for Gabe. I try to tell him, as I watch show after show so that I don't forget. He's still so young. Maybe I'll write him a letter, too.

wordgirl said...

Good advice. Wonderful words. Thank you for writing them.

lildb said...

that's such a difficult thing to communicate to anyone, never mind a child; the idea that life requires some danger, some dirt; it exacts these things of us, in order for us to have a richer existence. to try and avoid the danger and dirt is foolhardy. but how to communicate where the line is? how to say what is too much danger, too much dirt?

gah.

anyway, I think you did it pretty damn well.