I wrote this piece last year well before I started BluAmaryllis…
I was born in 1963 the year JF Kennedy was assassinated. I was only a few months old when it happened and I obviously do not remember a thing. My mother used to say that everyone she knew, herself included, never forgot where they were and what they were doing when they first heard the terrible news. I know the feeling. Today is September 11, 2010. Nine years ago the World Trade Center twin towers fell in a wave of terror and blood. I was clearing the house for the cleaning lady. Life was good and orderly. My father called me from Belgium to alert me to the latest events of the morning. I would not speak to him for days. The phone lines to Europe would go dead shortly after our conversation. I turned on the TV and watched in disbelief as the highest buildings in the city collapsed into an inferno of heat, dust, and screams. We were lucky: my husband was home that day, the children, safely in school, and none of our friends were killed. It was a pure and cloudless Tuesday morning. A perfect late summer day. Squirrels and chipmunks were busy looking for food and burying it for the winter unaware that, a few miles away, people were being buried in glass and metal, never to hold their children again, never to call their parents for their birthdays and anniversaries. They were incinerated against their will. Nine years later it’s sunny again and I remember. We have a new president, the children are now teenagers, and my parents have passed away . Hope and pain live on. A song by Sting plays in my head. “On and on the rain will fall, like tears from a star, like tears from a star. And on and on the rain will say how fragile we are, how fragile we are.” I used to hum it without thinking much about the lyrics. Rain, tears, fragile: a good mix for a lovely song. We are fragile: we get hurt, we get sick, and we die. We do cry. A lot. Sometimes. How many of us are crying this morning? How many will light a candle tonight and pray?
I’m crying and I will light a candle in honor of the losses we all suffered that day; in honor of the losses we sustain as we go through the process of living. A child leaving for college; a pet dying; friends moving far away; strangers murdered by terrorists. As I watch the harmless flame flicker I will salute in my heart the courage of human beings who choose life over and over again in the face of adversity. We are not fragile. Like glass, we break if mishandled, but we are inherently strong and resilient. As we glue back the pieces a new shape emerges: scarred but determined to move on. “I tell you, the things one does in order to have fun and/or to stay alive” writes my mother-in-law who lost her husband seven years ago and has since re-invented herself through ballroom dancing. Yes, indeed, the things we come up with to get ourselves back in the flow, to re-connect with the good in and out, all around. I write and hug my children. She dances and makes macaroni and cheese and fruit pies on holidays. Some garden, walk, or sing. Others sit and breathe, spend time with friends, or study. The list goes on and on. We remember and we shed tears. We remember, we feel the sorrow, and we heal.
By the end of 1963 the Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand” made it to the top of US charts. The British wave of youth and music had engulfed America and the world. Life went on. Tonight, as I hold my husband’s hand, I’ll offer a silent prayer of peace and comfort. I’ll acknowledge the grief and give thanks for the abiding will to embrace joy. And I will go on to hum a new song: “On and on the tears will fall, like rain from the heart, like rain from the heart. And on and on, the tears will say how strong we all are, how strong we all are.”
Maryse Godet Copans © 2010