I’ve never dedicated a blog to 9/11, or my experiences on that day and days after. The closest I ever got was a blog I wrote in 2013 pontificating on the news of Osama Bin Laden’s death, and even that came late. I don’t know why exactly I never wrote about 9/11, when I write about just about everything else under the sun. Maybe because my life was spared on that September 11th in 2001. and I was not among the injured, maybe because no-one close to me died or was among the wounded, but I think mostly because I didn’t want to ever re-live it. Because even if you weren’t in or around the mighty towers that fell, you will never forget that day in New York. Especially if you worked in finance and remember the many scattered calendar days of the years you might have spent in the towers working, banking, living in naïveté.
But on that fateful day I’ll never forget walking the three miles that felt like thirty, from my cushy midtown office at Citigroup to my home in the East Village, with droves of other New Yorkers, because mass transit was shut down and the city was on lockdown. Almost a harbinger of The Walking Dead, where it truly felt like the world was coming to a bitter end. Being numb and cell phoneless because there was no signal to be found. Hoping nobody close to you was buried or burned alive in the rubble that was once The World Trade Center.
So many years later in the wake of the Brussels attacks, I sit here in Belgium shaken and unable to shake this feeling of familiarity, of vulnerability. These last 24 hours have been cloudy to say the least. For even though I didn’t lose anyone per se on 9/11, I did indeed lose something, the carefree naïveté and belief that I was safe, that “terrorist attacks wouldn’t happen here.”
But in the five years I’ve lived here in Belgium, I somehow got that feeling of security and safety back. I’ve joked numerous times about how quiet and peaceful life here is in Belgium, to the point of boredom. And then yesterday, the country and its people were shaken awake out of that peace and quiet. And that feeling of “terrorists attacks wouldn’t happen here” smacked me hard in the face again, because I was wrong.
And that’s the reality. And not blogging about it won’t make it go away. It’s not easy, but I’ve chosen to blog about it.
Because it’s easy to say don’t let the terrorists win by letting your fears take over. It’s easy to say keep living your life in the face of terrorism. It’s easy to say don’t stay home get outside and show these terrorists that we will not be bullied. But all I want to do is stay home, and bake. Bake? I never bake. Anybody who knows me knows I don’t bake. Yet I baked this morning, with my son Noah who turned 4 years old on Monday.
Monday, before all this tragedy struck.
We baked a cornbread this morning. A good old-fashioned American cornbread. Noah is too young to know the significance in my choice of baking therapy, but he did ask me why I was crying. I couldn’t stop crying. So I told him I was sad for all the good people that the bad people hurt yesterday.
I tried my best to explain to Noah, what was plastered on the news yesterday morning, and it was consistent with what I told him just a few months before after the Paris attacks.
Noah: Mama, there are bad people in France.
Me: No, there are good people in France but some bad people went there and did bad things.
Me: This is why it’s important to grow up and be a good person and always help people, right Noah?
Noah: Yes mama.
And then yesterday…
Noah: I have an idea! My sword! I’ll fight the bad guys with my sword!
I told Noah that fighting back like that would only hurt more people. He tipped his head, thoughtful, and replied that his sword was only plastic anyway. If only we could all be so thoughtful and contemplate the results of our actions…so that parents don’t have to wrack their brains to come up with such explanations. When will it stop?
Which is why really, this morning, I just felt the need to raise my American flag by way of cornbread.
And now I’ll leave Noah in the faithful hands of his Opi so I can go give Rice House a good cleaning before opening for business as usual tomorrow.
Because, life does go on.
My heart cries and my eyes well with tears for the souls and innocence lost yesterday. But one day we will unite and fight and win. We will overcome.