Wednesday, June 15, 2011

I Want to Be with You When the World Caves In

"...Someone or something will shatter our world again. And wouldn’t it be a shame if we didn’t take this opportunity, and the loss of these incredible people, and the pain that their loved ones are going through right now: wouldn’t it be a shame if we didn’t take that moment to make sure that the world that we are creating now, that will ultimately be shattered again by a moment of lunacy — wouldn’t it be a shame if that world wasn’t better than the one we previously lost?"              Jon Stewart, The Daily Show  
That was Jon Stewart's comment on the Gabrielle Giffords shooting.  This quote has been sitting in my draft file for almost six months now, because I wanted to write about it but also didn't want to write about it, because when I think about these kinds of statements, I can't help but think about September 11th, and even though we're closing in on ten years between that day and now, it is still painful to talk about it in depth.  I've written about my own experience in this space before, but I'm not sure I've ever talked specifically about the people in my life that day in the ways that brought them to mind when I heard Jon Stewart deliver this sentiment. 

I didn't have my family near me on September 11th.  They were in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, and phone connection was spotty.  What I did have, to touch and lean on, were the people in Washington with me.  I had my roommate Beth and the girls on my floor - Jen and Katie and Brandy and the Erins and Ashleys.  I had the hairdresser on campus, to whom I went because I didn't know what else to do but keep my appointment.  I had the security people who walked by the bench I sat on when I had to leave the TV screens.  The next day there was a bomb threat and I found myself in the Nebraska Avenue parking lot with my friend Colin in his hand-colored American flag shirt and Beth, again.  I'd lived in DC for about a month when that day came around, and I didn't really have best friends down there yet, but what I did have was the company of Americans. 

When Jon said "someone or something will shatter our world again," I thought "and wouldn't it be awful if we weren't together when that day came?"  I remember September 11th and the way we clung to each other in the days that followed, and it makes me so indescribably sad that we have become divided so violently by the fear of that day.  It so often seems that we have each taken the char of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and used it to sketch and shade our own private Americas, jealously hoarding our charcoal and drawing thick black lines around the edges of our paper to keep out anyone who might be able to hurt us, even a little bit.  I don't want to draw any more.  I don't want to black out Colin and Beth and the other kids who were in the parking lot who I didn't know.  I don't want to black out the women on my floor and the people I worked with.  Hokey as it sounds, what I want is to wrap my arms around each person and hold them until they're not afraid anymore, so we can move forward as Americans together, so we can use our charcoal together to continue our work on the great, fearless portrait of America we left behind that day.  It used to be worked in steel and leaves, berries and wood, in cloth and in paint and it can be again if we can only let go of our little pieces of black. 

Someone or something will shatter our world again.  And I want to be able to turn to my fellow Americans, to cry with them, and to take up their hands and walk forward out of the dark. 

No comments:

Post a Comment