Nearly eight years ago, America was lost and found, all in a single day.
The terrorist attacks of 9-11 killed thousands and changed the lives of uncounted people across the globe. News reports saturated the airwaves, world governments promised justice or vengeance – maybe both.
Our new president stood on the crushed remains of a fire truck and delivered an impromptu speech to a scattered crowd of first responders and on-scene ground-zero volunteers. Many of us looking on from our living rooms across America railed at our inability to assist in any meaningful way. Flags sprouted up from porches and curbsides where only days before there had been nothing. Many went back to churches, long abandoned for the hectic, impersonal drive of every-day life. Some just moved along, barely functioning. But everyone suddenly looked around and recognized each other as Americans.
I remember. I was there.
I lived in a small town where a local police officer had only recently left to begin a new career in the airline industry. Al was on one of the aircraft, which hit the Trade Center. It was his first day on the new job.
But we lived day to day back then, and making the trip to one of the disaster sites to volunteer was impossible. We returned from work daily to a new helping of horror and a new feeling of impotence.
I was a graphic artist and a writer, so I painted and I wrote. And today, so many years later, I revisited the painting I did the week of the attacks, intending to make a print of it for a friend. I decided to make some additions – most notably, a complete list of names of every person who lost their lives in each attack.
So I ask you now – consider what is more horrible...
Is it that I struggled to fit the entire list on a 22 x 17 inch print? Or is it that I finally did?
Or maybe the most horrible thing of all is that with such a massive loss of life and a nation and world so terribly affected – with little towns filled with people raising and lowering their flags every day – with all that, we are here less than eight years later tearing each other down and struggling to maintain our national identity.
How mean and low and sick we have become that we so easily allow the very work those terrorists started September 11, 2001, to continue unchallenged. Our country implodes around us, a continuance of the work they started. And the very people who pulled together back then – the same people who stood united against a soul-less enemy, now stand in fractured political groups across the country.
So I’ll ask again, what is more horrible...
Is it that I felt a need to add those thousands of names to that painting? Is it that I was able to do it? Or is it that in time, amidst the partisan infighting, no one may even remember why those people died, and how America was both lost and found...
All in a single day.