September 11, 2001.

The alarm blasted and I was on my feet, pulling on sweats, tying my hair in a quick ponytail. My three children — one in preschool and two in elementary school — scampered downstairs for bagels and scrambled eggs. They took tremendous pride in choosing their own outfits and complimented each other on the bright array of neon-red, sunburst-yellow and Ninja-Turtle-green seated at the kitchen table. My husband was upstairs, choosing a tie, listening to National Public Radio when the program was interrupted with breaking news. He took a moment to collect himself, then walked downstairs with an odd deliberateness, his tie hanging loose. We spoke quietly. Knowing our kids would hear about it at school, we told them. Their reaction was matter-of-fact, unworried, entirely age-appropriate.

All day, my phone rang. I was a therapist at the time, not yet an author, and parents from my children’s schools needed guidance. “What should I tell my kids?” “How much should I tell my kids?” “How can I help them feel safe when I’m terrified?” I talked to them about tailoring their answers to fit the needs of the child, about language that would make sense for different ages, about managing their own understandable fear.

In California, many of us were shielded from the immediate trauma experienced by the targeted areas. My family had relatives and friends in Manhattan, but we quickly heard that they were safe. Others weren’t so lucky. A nameless, faceless fear permeated our pretty little Bay Area town. Our new frontier catapulted us into a vulnerability that we had been privileged to deny until that day.

In the evening, I tucked my youngest child in bed and sang to her as always. But instead of my usual repertoire of The Beatles and my college fight song, I found myself singing America The Beautiful and The National Anthem.  My daughter curled up and closed her eyes, warm and safe.  I watched her sleep peacefully, and thought of the people in my homeland who struggled in the aftermath of a terrorist attack. Something stirred and I sat quite still, waiting to clarify a shift deep within. Slowly, the shift took on an emotional structure and I clasped my hands around it. I was a born again American.

Today, the anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attack on my homeland, I’m renewing my vows to the United States of America. I pledge allegiance to the flag of the people, by the people, for the people. I stand, at the twilight’s last gleaming, with those who are targeted for the diversity that makes our country great. I raise my voice for spacious skies and amber waves — for all races, all genders, all religions, all sexualities. I write for the day when we are truly indivisible, from sea to shining sea.

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Filed under Never Forget, September 11, Uncategorized

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