Until 9/11, this was the defining question of my generation: “Where were you when Kennedy was shot?” For our children, the question is: “Where were you when the towers fell?”
I remember hearing a shriek and shout out in the office hallway at work. There was a small TV in the employee break room that we identified as the ruckus source. Shortly after, the intercom phones and our lines started ringing. For the next several hours, people called to cancel appointments, friends and family reached out to check on us, and stories unfolded. One co-worker stayed vigilantly by her desk phone, awaiting word on her son-in-law, who was scheduled for an equipment service appointment that morning at the Windows on the World restaurant at the top of the North Tower. His wife prayed he either missed the meeting or arrived late due to a traffic snarl, hoping he never made it into the building. Five hours later, we got word another technician took the assignment at the last minute. He perished in the fire and rubble. Unimaginable grief and guilt hovered in the air.
That morning, my husband attended an inspection walk-through on our soon-to-be-forever-home. With our savings and a small inheritance from my mother, we bought a “lightly renovated” home in a neighborhood with yard space for our children and dog to play. Due to the house’s age and lack of concrete slab foundation, the inspection was essential. The inspector took a call from his children’s school twenty minutes after the planes hit the towers. They attended a private academy at The Jewish Community Center. The JCC staff feared that targeted attacks might follow attacks in other cities. They sent all their students home to safety.
This year, as Corona19 terrorizes the world, and international travel stands almost still, we witness a rise in what the news cycle and politicians and law enforcement call “domestic terrorism.” When will we be safe again? How can we be safe? These are the questions that deserve our attention. We must put what divides us behind us and unify in common need: safety, equality, clean air and water, improved lives for those with less or at risk, respect for all living creatures, all of the earth.
The only answer I have is finding a starting place: our shared humanity.