Ten years after Sept. 11, 2001 I wonder, “Have we made any progress on this planet?”
Each Memorial Day we think of such marker events in our history. The following is a reflection I wrote in the months following 9-11. Reading through it again, a decade later, I find still haunting reminders — besides the lyrics of Paul Simon’s song — that we’ve a long way to go on our journey toward peace in this Age of Aquarius.
I’m thinking that, in 2012, it’s time to ramp up the construction. May each of us be the bridge we seek over troubled water. One by one, we can make a difference in our corner of the world. The ripple effect builds into a tsunami; and together the waves create a cleansing and renewing global shift, where peaceful waters flow beneath those bridges that we’ve built.
On Sept. 11, 2001, there was a call for unity and love to prevail. There was a collective will to transcend the divisions. Why, then, does our world seem even more volatile in 2012? Why is everything either black and white or red and blue? Why this polarity in our culture? Haven’t we been there, done that? When, for heaven’s sake, will we take the quantum leap?
Yes, there is much work to do, miles to go before we sleep… bridges to build, bridges to trolley across — together.
May we daily be inspired into action; and, so inspired — imagine. Imagine what extraordinary thing might we do?
Over Troubled Water
By Susan G Parcheta (Pub. In the May/June 2002 issue of Horton’s Mid-Michigan Reader)
Paul Simon’s haunting lyrics in Bridge over Troubled Water washed over our souls again during the celebrity telethon for the victims of Sept. 11, 2001. Topping the charts three decades ago, it continues to sooth our collective cry for a bridge to some place safe…somewhere to ease our minds.
Most every American’s life was affected by the events of 9-11. Each of us lives our evolving story. In time we absorb and process its magnitude. And, as the passing weeks distance us from the horror, we resolve to trudge over our bridges, over our own troubled waters…to make a connection of hope on the other side.
I recall that week, written in another column, spent visiting our son at college in the Keweenaw. On the remote shores of Lake Superior the processing began. I thought of bridges as Michigan natives think of them. We like our Mighty Mackinac – seamlessly bridging our two peninsulas.
Weeks drifted along. I took note of my mail – all the while thinking of anthrax. Most letters from organizations began with words about “the horrible tragedy in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.” Usually they’d mention that it “shocked us into taking another look at what’s really important in our lives.”
The events seemed closer because our daughter and son-in-law were spending a year in Virginia, while he took courses at Quantico Marine Corps base. We were hesitant about our planned visit in early November. That was a quiet weekend in Washington, DC – falling between the Marine Marathon and Veteran’s Day. Still, it was merely a month after Sept. 11.
By then, gathering courage, we made the pilgrimage. We spent a day in the city. If we took the subway, said daughter Marya, we could park at the end of the line at Franconia Station and not contend with the Beltway or parking downtown. The subway ride was eerily calm.
A copy of the day’s Washington Post was left on our corner seat. It was still there on the return trip. I wondered about the synchronicity. I took it home.
That day, at museum checkpoints, security guards poked into purses and backpacks. Cops seemed present on every corner. The quietness was both surreal and unsettling.
Lunch at “Hawk & Dove” made me think of the political changes since my first visit to D.C. as a high school senior, when JFK and Jackie were in the White House.
At the Air and Space Museum I paused to watch the JFK video. I listened again to his “man to the moon” speech, while a special choir sang America the Beautiful on the floor below.
The lilting tones wafted up to accompany my reverie of those times. Wasn’t it just a moment ago?
Sunday we drove past the gaping hole in the Pentagon. I imagined the plane flying over the highway bridge, over the troubled waters of the Potomac, into it.
And I felt Lilliputian – in a miniature dream village – vulnerable to the giant of uncertainty.
It helped to spend a sunny afternoon at Mt. Vernon. Perhaps going back to the beginning, to the first president – thinking what our founders faced over their troubled waters – would help me gain perspective.
I thought of mountains to prairies to oceans. We’d traveled 500 miles in opposite directions from our home since 9-11…spanning the distance from our northern border to the southeast coast. I wondered if we could ever visit New York.
On our next trip this past March, travelers were beginning to return to D.C. like the cherry blossoms. The subway was jammed at rush hour. Restaurants were bustling, as was the fish market. Folks lined up early for the newly-refurbished Washington Monument tour. School groups were back in town.
As we headed past the construction site for the World War II Memorial, a helicopter flew over our heads. Our daughter said that was the presidential one.
Museum security guards continued to check bags, and at the Old Post Office building, the Clock Tower, a metal detector and police officers greeted us at the entrance.
That week Americans were asking how we’ve changed six months after 9-11. “Where were you when the world stopped turning that September day?” sang Alan Jackson in a March 11 Today Show visit. He sang of faith and hope and love.
The “Tower of Light” kept vigil over New York – an after-image of the Twin Towers — in remembrance for awhile.
A mission organization flyer described peace and justice as the twin towers of our faith. There, I decided, is the after-image…a bridge of peace and justice.
If you’re thinking of going to Washington D.C. this summer, yes, go there. Do it to ease your mind. Do it to reconnect with your heritage. Each traveler’s visit, I believe, helps reclaim our hallowed ground.
For my generation, Sept. 11 bookmarks two unthinkable events. On a wind-whipped day at Arlington, I reflected on Nov. 22, 1963. JFK gunned down…shattering my youthful idealism.
Again, the unthinkable happened on 9-11. How are the youth of today handling that? Do they feel as vulnerable? Will they withdraw, or will we discover a new internationalism?
At the Smithsonian, I noticed significant numbers of people from other countries. Were they thinking that venerable institutions might offer a clue to our global dilemma?
As for me, revisiting D.C. energized and restored a frazzled connection to my homeland and all that its Star Spangled Banner embraces.
Like a bridge over troubled water I will lay me down.
The bridge, I’ve discovered is me.