At first, I wasn’t going to write a Sunday Salon post (or any post) today. With today being the 10th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks against America, I wasn’t sure I had anything left to say or to add to the conversation. Plus, it seems almost trivial and indulgent to be spending the day blogging, reading, and watching football. (Our typical Sunday routine during football season.) Today, this almost feels wrong.
Or is it? It sounds a bit dramatic, especially for someone who didn’t lose anyone in the attacks, but I honestly don’t think there has been a day in the past decade that I haven’t thought about 9/11. (One of Boo’s therapists, aghast at hearing The Husband and I admit this, once took us to task and questioned us a bit too rigorously about why, exactly, we were so affected by 9/11 since, after all, we didn’t lose anyone. Hello, maybe we were affected because we’re Americans?)
But it’s true. I think about 9/11 a lot. It can be as simple as looking at the digital clock here on my laptop or on my night table or in my car, seeing that it’s 9:11, and saying a silent prayer of remembrance. (I always seem to look at the clock at 9:11, or at the time that is the numbers representing Betty and Boo’s birthday.)
Or passing the exit on the Pennsylvania Turnpike where one would take to visit Shanksville, PA – something that is becoming more common, now that we are living in the Pittsburgh area and since my new job will take me to that area on occasion (as early as this Tuesday perhaps).
Or anytime one gets a glimpse of the New York skyline – as it was Before or as it is After.
Or waking up to a sky of such brilliant blue that it could only have been painted by the hand of God himself.
I remember 9/11 everyday in my heart. I think many Americans do the same. And so, in some ways, that’s why I’m not watching much coverage of the memorials or reading many of the heartwrenching stories. Even my Facebook stream has been a bit overwhelming this morning, truth be told.
It’s a day of remembrance, of reflection – but to me, it is also a day where it is OK for our lives to go on. Where the people who lost their lives that day would, I’d imagine, almost want us to do what they no longer can – spend time with family, enjoy a football game (or two, or three), celebrate the freedom we have to read the books of our choosing and to express our opinions.
Which is where The Sunday Salon comes in. While I was debating internally whether or not to do a Salon post and whether it seemed too self-indulgent to be talking books on such a day, I realized that the book I am currently reading – and which I hope to finish up today, on 9/11/2011 – is absolutely perfect for this occasion. And I cannot NOT tell you about it, because it is a book that I believe every American (no, scratch that, every human being) should read.
It’s Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, by Laura Hillenbrand. It’s the story of one Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner who was enslaved as a POW by the Japanese during World War II. The atrocities that Louis endured are ones that would have broken anyone – physically or emotionally – many, many times over. But instead, he survived conditions that seemed impossible to live through.
I’m not trying to equate that being a POW for almost three years is the same as “surviving” 9/11 when one wasn’t directly involved in the attacks. It’s not the same. But what is the same about Louis Zamperini’s story and 9/11 is that inner spirit, that will to fight back and to not let the enemy win. It’s the same determination that we saw in the heroes of Flight 93, in the skies over Pennsylvania. They weren’t going to let the enemy win. In the face of unimaginable tragedy and terror, they (and the people at Ground Zero and at the Pentagon and throughout the nation) would not allow themselves nor America to become broken.
And we saw this in the days and months after 9/11 as our country truly understood what it meant to be united. We saw this in the days and decades afterwards, as our military fought bravely, doing what long seemed impossible and often out-of-reach in the quest to find and kill Osama bin Laden.
In many ways, we’ve lost that united spirit, that pride of patriotism that we shared and remembered in the face of 9/11. It’s easy to see how and why. We’re a nation divided politically and socially. We’re a people facing hardship that many of us have never known before with record numbers of us out of work, unsure where our next meal is going to come from, uncertain of our immediate and long-term financial futures. We’re cynical, skeptical, and untrusting.
We often feel broken, don’t we?
One of the many things that I love about authors and books is that their words have the power to meet you at the very time and place and moment that you most need them. It’s a gift, and today especially, it’s worth remembering that. Unbroken has become that kind of book for me. I don’t know why I felt compelled to read this book now. Yeah, it’s the September 2011 selection for an online book club a friend of mine just invited me to join, but Unbroken has been all over the Internet and the book blogs for a long time before now. Why is this one coming to me now?
The only reason I can think of is that I simply needed to read this now, as a way to be reminded that we do have the ability to survive the unimaginable, whatever that might represent in our particular lives. That, especially when we don’t feel it, that there is a spirit of resilience in all of us that can – and will – sustain us through the darkest days and allow us to come shining through.
Maybe that’s true for you, too.
copyright 2011, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.