9/11: When Will We Ever Learn?


My Mom was crying. I’ll never forget it. I’d only ever seen my Mom cry once before. That time long ago, she was sitting with the neighborhood Moms watching TV, and they were crying too. I was shocked at the sight of adults crying.

I remember sitting on the floor, looking at the small, black and white screen trying to understand what was happening. There was a parade with a long gray box covered with piles of grey and white flowers moving slowly down a highway lined with black and white people. The absence of color fit the painful dark emotion sucking all the light and life from the room where all the Moms sat cloaked in deep silence.

What I remember most is a little boy a couple of years younger than me. He was dressed all in black, holding onto his Mom’s hand. I couldn’t see her face because it was hidden by a black veil. But I could see the boy’s face. The TV voice said that his name was JonJon.

It seemed like a funny name to me but I didn’t feel like laughing at all. He was crying because his Dad was in the big gray box. I wondered if he knew what was going on; and then I thought he probably didn’t. I thought he probably just wanted to go home and see his Dad again.

The shades of grey people on the screen didn’t seem real to me. But my Mom’s tears were frighteningly vivid. This was a Mom face I had never seen, this blotchy red mournful crying face.

All us kids were creeping around the edges of that parental sorrow not knowing how to reach through…to break through…not knowing what to do…and so we played quietly without being told. We didn’t argue or squabble. We didn’t ask for snacks or drinks or lunch or attention.

One by one we were slowly drawn by that palpable grief to sit on the floor at our Moms’ feet…pressed up against their legs like dogs who give comfort the only way they can…with the warmth of their bodies.

And here was my Mom, all these years later, crying again.

This time the funeral procession on the TV was in bright and glorious technicolor…but the people lining the streets as the casket went by were still black and white. In the casket was not just a man but a dream. And many were afraid that the dream would be buried with the man.

This time, instead of a neighbor, it was my turn to sit with my Mom with a blotchy red mournful face….

…and weep.

And then, years later, I was the Mom weeping.

I stood transfixed by the TV and watched in horror as graphic image after image, yellow orange and red explosion after explosion, replay after replay in slow motion and real time, from the front back and side played and replayed and replayed and replayed until I could close my eyes and see that scene still playing against the inside of my eyelids like rolling waves after a day at the beach…

I sobbed aloud as I watched those two modern miracles of glass and steel gracefully collapse like deflated balloons at the end of the Macy’s parade. I watched in horror as it began to rain ash..

…and people.

My three year old daughter sat on the floor, eyes wide with fear. She couldn’t see the vivid nightmare playing out on the TV…she was looking in fear at me…

…at my blotchy red mournful face…

…a Mom face she had never seen before…

…and perhaps, will never forget.

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”  Nelson Mandela

Dear God, Let us become instruments of your peace.