Last Night, I Had the Strangest Dream

September 13, 2011

I did not allow myself to get wrapped up in the 9/11-themed week that just ended.

Yesterday, I spent some time thinking and reflecting about that day, and certainly reminisced with co-workers about the whole “where were you that morning?” question, but I chose not to re-watch footage from that horrible event or get into all of the drama.  I cleaned up my apartment, went to work, spent a few minutes with my mom, visited my boyfriend at a photo shoot he organized and then went out for sushi.

At the doctor’s office this morning, the nurse who administered my Tetanus shot (yay.) asked me if I paid any attention to the repetitious nature of yesterday.  I told her I hadn’t, and immediately felt guilty for not being more interested until she said she hadn’t either.  A short but effective conversation ensued about that clear, blue, devastating morning ten years and one day ago.

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I was a sophomore in college and was not a fan of wake-up calls from my mother.  Actually, I wasn’t a fan of waking up in general, and was not expecting a call at (gasp!) 10:15 AM on a Tuesday (I had probably been up late Swiffering the floor of my dorm-suite as I was known to do in those days).  Anyway, my mother told me to turn on channel 7.  I eventually tuned in after begging her to tell me why, unsuccessfully.  The tower was on fire.  I was speechless.  The TOWER.  Holy. Crap. There was only one tower there.  The remaining tower fell before my 19-year-old eyes, several minutes later, and I spent the rest of that day hanging out with my roommates, crying, trying desperately to call my good friend at NYU and my cousin (who was/is a flight attendant for United), eating Chinese food and ice cream, and watching the planes hit the towers over and over and over and over again.

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That’s my whole story.

Some people’s whole story is much different, and I felt silly and melodramatic when I told my “where were you?” story to several people when they asked yesterday.  My story is ridiculous.  After that day, I felt no ramifications.  I felt frustrated with and was disappointed in the state of our world.  I felt angry at our president, who I believed was to blame at the time.  I felt helpless when I realized just how intolerant and hateful those terrorists were, and how intolerant and hateful so many people in my own country were.  But I didn’t feel the loss or the pain or the real-life horror that survivors of the attacks and thousands and thousands of victims and all of their families and friends felt.  My empathy for those people was substantial, but it was also inconsequential.  I felt so useless.

Since becoming a music therapist, I experience empathy much more intensely than I used to, and have not watched the news regularly in I don’t know how long.  When my boyfriend wants to tell me what he learned in the New York Times on any given day, I often can’t handle the information I’m given, because I’m just so overwhelmed.  I see so much pain, every day, in all the clients I work with, that outside of work I don’t feel I need to absorb any additional emotion.  I realize that this bury-my-head-in-the-sand technique is not necessarily healthy, and that it’s not helpful for anyone, but I prefer to dream.

I prefer to dream that people are generally good, honest, tolerant, altruistic, generous, considerate, peaceful and understanding.  When I dream, I dream that Israel and Palestine will find some common ground and make peace someday.  I dream that religious extremists – ALL religious extremists – will exclude intolerance, hate and violence from their teachings.  I dream that children in this world will be born into societies that accept and nurture them regardless of their gender, ethnicity, religion and culture – societies that won’t preach that they’re right and that someone else is wrong.  Societies that would never think of killing innocent people based on differences in politics or religion.

In reality, for those who aren’t a part of the conversation in my head, I do understand that chaos and peace have always been at odds.  I know that since the world began, people have warred and blamed and hated and judged, and acted violently in the name of Jesus, G-d, Allah, or Shiva (among many others, of course).  I know that there is absolutely no way that there will ever be complete world peace.  I know this, because with every passing day, people seem to become more and more closed-minded, judgmental, greedy, dishonest, selfish and self-righteous.  How can our planet, our Earth, succeed in achieving world peace with those negative personality traits?  One can dream.

I have to dream.  I have to believe that the world is a better place than it is.  I have to sing “What a Wonderful World” with clients several times a week and I have to believe it.  I have to see the beauty in the world and make “Que Sera, Sera” my mantra.  When my elderly clients reminisce mournfully at the loss of millions of people during the Holocaust and WWII as if it was yesterday, I feel I have to tell them that things have changed so they can sleep at night.  I celebrated almost too enthusiastically and outwardly at work when Obama won the election in 2008, because my elderly black clients (not all are of African descent) weren’t convinced that things had changed all that much since the lynchings in Birmingham in the earlier part of the last century.  But genocide still happens, and racism and hate-crimes still rock communities all over the world.  There’s beauty in the breakdown.  Or something.

September 11th, 2001 was a terrible day.  The truth of the matter though, is that I wasn’t there.  I wasn’t one of the hundreds of people jumping out of windows trying to escape certain doom.  I wasn’t the wife of a lost firefighter, or the daughter of a woman working on the fifitieth floor.  I wasn’t a student in the wrong place at the wrong time, and I wasn’t on those planes.  Those people are the people for whom this past week of remembrance was observed, and they are who I thought of and prayed for.  I’m just another American watching the rest of the world on TV.  I’m not picking up the pieces of a broken life.

So, I observed the tenth anniversary of the attacks in my own way – by living my life, which I’m so lucky to have, and by spending time with people I love.  My head may be below sea level at times, but I know what really matters, and it matters every day.

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