The lies of a fine place worth fighting for

I remember going to my kid’s elementary school a few days after the September 11th attacks. I had asked my daughter’s teacher if I could come in to help out and she informed me that there was a schedule for such things. Still, she took mercy on me because she knew about the stir I had created on that horrible Tuesday morning when I called the school and spoke to the principal. I was at work as the news kept coming about another attack, somewhere else. There were all these rumors about more to come, and while schools didn’t seem to be a target, all I knew was that the world was burning and I didn’t have my kids.

So I called the school because I wanted to come by and pick them up early. Things did not go well. The principal attempted to reassure me that the kids were safe and I was having none of it. I told him in no uncertain terms that I didn’t need to be fucking comforted, I needed my kids. I’m not much for pretty words when my hard drive goes Chuck Norris. He didn’t miss a beat, keeping calm and talking me down from my crazy ledge. His was the voice I needed right then, even though I trusted nothing of a world that could produce the kind of morning we were living through.

I listened, and eventually I agreed with him. I was ten minutes from the school in the event some other catastrophe signaled the end of the world as we knew it. If I had to fucking walk to get there, that’s what I would do.

So my visit to the school was a need to be close to my daughter, my kids. I wanted to apologize, to the secretary and the principal. They hadn’t deserved my storm of curse words. They had jobs to do, jobs that became more difficult once the attacks began. And they had children, and families of their own. They didn’t need some irate father reminding them that the world was a mean place.

As I walked to my daughter’s classroom that morning, the walls were lined with crayoned pictures. Planes in the sky, buildings, people running . . flags . . caskets . . birds, peace signs. All those little, innocent minds had created a mosaic of that horrible morning. The definition of heart wrenching, it was in those little crayoned pictures.

” . . . we wanted the children to be able to process the event . .” Explained a teacher as we walked down the hallway.

I wanted to ask her how a child might explain that which has no reasonable explanation, but I had already used up all my grace points during that phone call a few days earlier. It made no sense to me, any of it. I felt so hopeless as I perused those portraits of the horror hanging from the walls. I felt as if the world had gotten lost and there was just no finding it.

The world I knew had been replaced, with this. With a place where my kids would come to expect death in the deep blue skies, and in malls and workplaces . . and classrooms.  It was as if Dante’s toy chest had been opened and now, inside this horrible now, there was no going back.

My prevailing thought was that these kids were too young for this shit. There was no processing such a thing as this. As an adult, I didn’t even know how to process it. I struggled with how I was supposed to explain the attacks when they finally got around to asking me, and so when they did, I began by talking about monsters. Even though I understood that such analogies were simplifications of a much more sinister truth. The truth being that bin Laden had been a boy once. The truth being that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were boys. The truth being that somewhere along the line, all those individuals had lost their better angels to the demons within. The fact that they were not monsters, that they were actual human beings . . this was the truly frightening thing. For me.

So I colored the story with talk of monsters, because that was the way had to process these horrible things. They had become monsters, somewhere along the way, and so that’s where I picked up the story. For them.

And then my son asked me if the bad people wanted to blow up schools and I told him no.

“They only shoot in schools? . .” He said.

I still don’t know how to answer that one.

73 thoughts on “The lies of a fine place worth fighting for”

  1. Yes, September 11, 2001 changed our world. And no, we can’t go back, but we do need to go forward. We’ve been stuck in the terrorists wake left in the form of contrails and metal detectors in our schools, we have been paralyzed by fear and disgust by far too long. As always, well done. “The world I knew had been replaced, with this. With a place where my kids would come to expect death in the deep blue skies, and in malls and workplaces . . and classrooms. It was as if Dante’s toy chest had been opened and now, inside this horrible now, there was no going back.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There is no going back indeed. We are here, we are in the moment that needs us to do something, anything.
      Thank you for sending me that link the other day, because it felt good to do something, anything.
      I do not envy today’s kids. My world was a tough place, but it wasn’t this. It was, at the very least, more explainable.
      Apologies because I am on my way out so I will catch up with your replies later on.
      But thank you. Much.

      Peace

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I can feel your frustration and share it totally. How do we tell our kids that other kids kill people? It makes one wonder where this will all end. We have no leadership in this country and so we are all forced to make up stories that may or may not be true. Thanks for the post, Marc.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. John,

      I have found through my experience that bad language and the birds and the bees is easy peasy stuff compared to this. I mean, how DO we explain violence when it’s oftentimes not something we, as adults, understand?
      As I mentioned to Karen, I am leaving my laptop for the afternoon but I will be back to read your blog and to reply to anything you comment on further from here. Apologies ahead of time. And thank you. And be safe.

      Peace

      Liked by 1 person

  3. All of us remember that day … and yes, each of us in different ways because of different circumstances. I too wondered about the immediate processing for kids – but on the other hand, sometimes they can fool us with how well they can. Also, we’ve never had kids – so I can’t relate on that level – but I felt your concern and frustration in your words here. You did well.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Yeah, it’s hard to go Chuck Norris on those sweet innocent faces. My work was in the local ‘World Trade Center’ and they closed up everything tighter than a drum that awful day in September. As I walked back to my car for the drive home, my mind was a total whirl of thoughts. I still find it all surreal and even more so with the current state of affairs…another day, another school shooting. What has happened to us since 9/11 is something I ask myself every day. So far, I have no answers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We have to find the answers here, from our elbows to our fingertips. In the majesty of connections made in the company of strangers who familiarize themselves through loss. And those keyboards, they become something along the lines of Shakespeare with a bow and arrow.
      That way.

      Peace and better days

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I think that day is scarred into the global consciousness. I was a child at the time and someone giving me a lift home mentioned “the twin towers came down”- I had no idea what they meant till I walked in and saw it on the news. Sorry, I don’t have anything to add to this either- it’s not something I’ve ever been able to get my head round. I think you summed it up beautifully here: “The world I knew had been replaced, with this. With a place where my kids would come to expect death in the deep blue skies, and in malls and workplaces . . and classrooms. It was as if Dante’s toy chest had been opened and now, inside this horrible now, there was no going back.” It reminds me of the fact that every time I, or many of my generation, are ever asked of the most significant event in living memory, it’s always 9/11.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s the place from which we start again. As human beings, looking to find a place and a purpose to everything.
      No matter the age or the place you called home, it meant something. Still does.
      So from there, we move. And we have to move together. Or else, it’s that whole doomed thing. And I think better of us all.
      Much better. :_)

      Liked by 1 person

  6. We’re supposed to reassure kids how rare something like this is or school shootings and remind them all the measures in place to keep them safe, but it’s getting harder and harder for parents and educators. It’s a scary world. Hopefully it will get better soon!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I have tried to write a response to this. Flushed the whole thing, twice.
    All I can say is it was felt all over the world and we all now have yet another “where were you when…” moment to remember. My boys were only 2 and 3 so I didn’t have any explaining to do. I refused to have the TV on, playing that friggen loop over and over, ensuring terror remains at the forefront.
    I agree with you, Marco. Our kids can handle way more than they should have to.
    I am one of those naive ones who believes that love must be spread instead of fear…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have so much more to say on this but for now I will say this.
      Fear sells. In cinema and literature yes of course. But its most insidious intrusion is in politics. They want us to be scared. Sadly. It’s good for business.

      Like

      1. Michael Moore made such a great point in his documentary, “Bowling for Columbine” about how fear moves the dial- in every spectrum of our existence.
        What really pisses me off is that our elected representatives make hay on that very thing. Fear is their driver. They rail on about all the many things we are afraid of, and there are plenty of peeps who buy in to that fear.
        It’s one of the reasons I have no party any longer. I find both sides to be similar in their attempts to frighten us. Trump is a whole ‘nother animal, of course. I DO fear him most days . . .

        Like

      2. I love Michael Moore. He seems to be the only one who wants to wake up the American people.
        I think you’re right – neither side is.making any effort to calm any fears.
        I still can’t believe that whole Trump thing. That is the scariest thing you ‘Muricans have ever done! 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Yeah, we took the reality show to its most disproportionately absurd degree.
        Can you imagine going back twenty years and predicting such a thing? You would have been called certifiable! But here we are . . .

        Like

      4. Hahaha… like Back to the Future when Marry says that Ronald Reagan is the president in the future… what? The ACTOR? Who’d a thunk back then…

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Bwahahaha! Yes I know!
        If we went back to the year that movie came out, which I believe was 1985 and we shared what America was going to look like in thirty three years time . . Vegas would NOT have taken that bet! A short list . . .
        -The affable, likable (we thought at the time) OJ Simpson . . charged with double murder.
        -The Terminator AS the Governator
        -America’s Favorite Father Bill Cosby as a sexual predator.
        -Prince . . . gone. I still weep over this one.
        – Same for JFK Jr . . and while she was from the UK . . Lady Di.
        -America’s Coach Joe Paterno, part of a horrible cover up at Penn State.
        – The Trade Center, stolen.
        – And because I have to stop writing this list before I get too depressed . . Trump as President of the United States.
        Holy. Shite.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Holy Shite is putting it mildly.
        And yes, it was 1985 – I had to check!
        My dad was the white Cosby – (not the sexual predator one, the comedian and father)
        I can’t even talk about Prince or Tom Petty or even Bowie (though not quite as crazy about him as the others)
        JFK and Lady Di. Stop. You’re killing me.
        No way anyone could have predicted the crazy

        Liked by 1 person

      7. I loved Bowie and I was so sad. Tom Petty . . sigh. And this isn’t even mentioning Michael Jackson and all those stories that started coming about in the ’90s, and then his premature death a decade ago now. I believe Farrah Fawcett lost her courageous battle soon after.
        My goodness, I need to stop.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. I visited NYC a month after the attacks. I went up with a group of volunteers. The group was headed up by a pulmonary cardiologist who was looking for people to help him run a free clinic at a downtown precinct. I still cry when I think back on my memories of that time. It changed me.
      The gist of it is that we rode into town with these new color coded warnings that were signaling that another attack was quite possible. Needless to say, we were scared shitless. But in a few days time, everything had changed. On our last day there, we had decided we wanted to go to the top of the Empire State Building, because the hell with being afraid! Alas, they weren’t allowing anyone up there that morning. But the mindset, it had changed. And it was spirited. And it was love.
      Love does work.

      Like

      1. The stories of love that came out of the horror should always be the biggest focus. And it is always amazing to see how humanity does come together.
        I imagine you would be scared shitless at first! Holy hell. I just saw pics and videos and I’m sure they were nothing compared to being there.
        Yes. Love. Does.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. What I remember is how quiet the city was. It felt like it does right after a big snowstorm. The pace was slower, people acknowledged each other on the streets with nods and hello. In the wake of the horrible devastation, we came to realize we NEEDED each other to get through this. For a time, unfortunately too short a time, differences did not create chasms.

        Like

      3. We sat in an Irish pub one night and talked about what the world was going to look like. I said all this coming together was great and that we needed more of it but that eventually, this horrible event was going to be turned into a political football. God I wish I would have been wrong about that.

        Like

      4. So do I, Marco. It would have been nice. And maybe, little by little, it will be…a girl can dream (oh yeah, I’m not supposed to call myself a girl!)

        Liked by 1 person

      5. It’s a bad habit of mine- according to TV talking heads anyhow- that I call women ‘girls’. It stems from growing up in New York when that was a part of the vernacular. I don’t say it disrespectfully.
        So . . go girl!

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Pfft! Llike Mayim Bialik is gonna give me shit for calling my posse “girls”? I think not. (reference: Her rant that was posted on the Facebooks…)

        Liked by 1 person

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