I stopped what I was doing and stared at the TV, transfixed. I saw the second tower hit, and heard the reports changing from "some kind of horrible airplane accident" to "terrorist attack." Half an hour later I had to tear myself away from the TV and run over to the school. I was PTO president, and I needed to be on hand to help. Many parents kept their kids home. Many showed up not aware of the tragedy and fell to tears or shock or both as we let them know. School was optional that day, but we reassured parents that we would be diligent about their children's safety, to the extent we could have any control.
We all know that control is an illusion, but when we feel that we've lost it, we're devastated. Our ability to think and act freezes. Primal fear kicks in, anxiety flares. The need to react while not knowing what to do frustrates and immobilizes us. Sudden death breaks our hearts and paralyses us. I think they were counting on all that.
"They," whom we now know to be Al Qaeda, want to take down western civilization -- all of it. They're having a lot of success. The destruction of the twin towers and the resulting nearly 3,000 deaths and more that 10,000 injured was only the beginning. The big picture plan was to get a reaction from the US government, to instigate a massive increase in defense spending, to generate fear and slow business, to start the ball rolling toward financial collapse. Well played, Al Qaeda, well played.
The world is in quite a mess now, 14 years later. Many of the problems were triggered by religious extremist -- Al Qaeda, the Taliban, ISIS -- and many are the fault of our reactions to fear, human greed, even apathy about the human race's survival. Why be responsible when it's all going to crap anyway? Is there any way out? Nobody knows.
So what do we do? Stop and take a breath, I think. Regain our personal balance. Think about our overall health and strength -- mental, physical, emotional, spiritual, and social. Focus on the strengths and don't let the weaknesses rule us. Be kind, forgiving, generous, gentle. Don't let the evil in the world harden us against one another. We're bigger than that. Encourage our governments to care for refugees. Knock on our neighbors' doors, introduce ourselves, admit embarrassment that we've never reached out, and get to know one another. Visit volunteermatch.org and find a way to help someone that appeals to you and do it. Notice the people who are alone and interact with them.
Act out of love, and evil will be thwarted. Although I have to remind myself to do this every day, I believe it with all my heart.