I couldn't bring myself to write something in advance about the 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks -- in part because I felt that I had nothing to say that hadn't been said a thousand times before and a thousand times better by others and in part because the news late last week of "credible but unconfirmed" information about possible attacks on New York and Washington sent my heart to racing once again.
I didn't know anyone who died in the attack on the Pentagon, at the World Trade Center, or in that field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania so I wasn't seared by a personal loss of someone I loved. But hearing the news and watching it all unfold on TV from my office that day, just four blocks from the White House, was downright scary. I didn't know where my husband, who spent a good part of most days on Capitol Hill, might be and our babysitter wasn't answering the phone at home, meaning she and my two year old were somewhere out and about. There were reports of a car bomb in front of the State Department, fires at Bolling Air Force base; all of it seemed both surreal and oddly credible. I called my mom and asked her to pick up my daughter at school if I didn't make it home and then I set off on foot, walking the five miles home, too afraid to get on the metro. My walk took me past the elementary school where kids were being released as parents could pick them up. And when we approached our house, I saw that my husband and younger child had made it home safe and sound.
But nothing felt safe and sound, not for a long time, as we waited for the other shoe to drop. Every plane that roared by filled me with dread. Every scare made me panic. Then there were the anthrax attacks and just as the region was starting to recover, we were again terrorized by a deranged sniper. And in the face of all this, there was nothing to do but just get on with it. Go to work, go to school, do the grocery shopping, mow the lawn, and hug your kids, and hold tight to your spouse.
Ten years later, I could write about the mess we've made in Iraq and Afghanistan, the international goodwill we squandered, the xenophobia stirred up by the war on terror, the heroism of first responders, the poise of the victims' families. But you can read the newspapers, listen to the radio or TV, attend a memorial service to be reminded of all that and more. For my part, I am trying just to remember that being afraid is wasted energy and that the time to offer up our best selves -- to family, community, nation, and self -- is right now.