Dear Connor and Helen,
September is the nicest month in DC. It’s the point in the year where clear blue skies dominate. Breezes blow in the evening, the crispness of fall starts to take hold, and apples show up at every stand in the market. The new theater season starts, we often go camping, and we eke out final bounces on the diving board as our neighborhood pool comes to a close.
It’s also the time of year when many people who were in DC 10 years ago walk a little more lightly, collectively holding our breaths, hoping we won’t tempt fate into a repeat of September 11, 2001. It’s the time of year when my furtive glance at a low-flying plane causes my heart to catch in my throat. And rather than cause for excitement “Look! There’s a plane!”, I’m much more likely to send a quick wish out into the universe that says “please, no.” My guard is up just a little more than usual, because I want so badly to keep you safe.
It breaks my heart that parts of your day-to-day life are as they are. After all, you’ve never been in an airport that didn’t ask you to remove your shoes as you walked through security. You’ve never known what it was like to walk around DC without Jersey barriers dotting the way. You’ve always had to wait anxiously as the security person at the airport decides, somewhat capriciously it seems, whether or not play-doh is allowed on this flight. Goodness sakes, you can’t even get up to go to the bathroom as we approach our home airport.
It wasn’t always like this. Not by a longshot.
Before September 11, 2001, when people decided to send a brute force message to the US, we were untouchable. We lived in the biggest, strongest place on Earth, and we had all the confidence that came with it. Now, we’re all too aware that even Goliath falls, sometimes. Looking back, those felt like good times.
I was going to tell you that this tragedy presented an opportunity. An opportunity for you to reach across cultures with love, rather than anger, to try and turn this world right again. But now that September is here, I think I’m just trying to fool myself. This world I’ve brought you into is messed up in a million ways. In deference to my friend and poet Ed Skoog, I’ll end with this. Blue skies in September make me sad. Really sad. Because I want my psyche back how it was before it was rocked 10 years ago. I want the thought that a bomb just struck to not simmer in the back of my head always. I want to feel safe again.
But most of all, I wish you could know what’s it like to grow up feeling safe – and that somehow, I could always protect you.
Elaine blogs about happier days over at Connor and Helen Grow Up.