I have a disease. I call it obstructed feedback.
Delayed reactions. You wouldn’t want me on the firing squad. The front lines.
It took me one full year to properly react to 9/11. It’s true. That day in 2001 I found myself staring at the television like I was watching some sick movie at seven in the morning on the west coast, while I made oatmeal and poured orange juice. Rote routine was what I chose in the moments. Once the dishes were cleaned with one eye shifting oddly back and forth at the scene playing out, I drove off to bible study and felt like I showed up at the wrong church because we put the intended curriculum aside and prayed for an hour instead.
I just assumed we’d attend to business as usual, while one woman practically beat her breast as she prayed for all the lives lost.
It sounds callous and cold, but I didn’t get it… I didn’t feel it. I labeled that lady a drama queen and the attention to the whole ordeal an over-reaction.
I’m not sure what to make of this character flaw. Maybe I should see a shrink, but huge catastrophic events leave me numb where a single death leaves me suffering.
I didn’t feel much about 9/11 until one year later. It was on a beautiful September day… I lay in our back yard while my young children napped. It was one of those delirious moments for a mother of preschoolers when all is quiet and seems as though stillness might last for, quite possibly, an hour! The sun was high and warm on my face as I began to hear the low murmur of an aircraft. It wasn’t until it crested the trees of our backyard that I froze… bewitched by how low that plane flew.
There it was, finally. My brain saw the twin towers going down for the first time; immensity plummeting through glass and metal. My mind (my heart?) finally caught up with everyone else and I could clearly see… undeniably feel. In the yard that day, I suppose I stepped out of shock. All alone I lay, soaking my beach towel… beating my own breast like a dramatist… over the faces of people I will never meet.
Today I sit in a coffee shop, writing and that deferred realization happens again. More delayed reaction comes to the surface.
Seated around a large, oval table, surrounded by floor to ceiling glass windows, out in the public eye, sit four police officers…
… four civil servants who could very well be Lakewood Police Officers, having coffee on a Sunday morning, making preparations for the day’s work, for the day’s protection.
As a local Northwesterner, I watched the horror of that brutal event play out on T.V. as well. I even watched the ten hour memorial service, held twenty minutes from where I was now sitting watching four officers that could have been the quartet who lost their lives. But again on that fateful day in 2009 my heart stayed detached from my body watching the horror like some lousy, second-rate flick.
But this day in the coffee shop while I glance at the swinging glass door, my mind pictures some random repeater as he steps one foot inside to satisfy his apparition. I imagine the amount of blood… Would I run over and hold one of these men in my lap? Or would I remain fixed behind this twelve-inch stone fireplace?
Because of this disease I have, my guess is that I’d stay hidden behind the fireplace. I even confirm my own suspicion because I think about getting up to go thank the officers for their service, but I’m glued to my seat. I stay unseen behind the stone as those four faithful men rise to go form a hedge around my community.
I’m humiliated by this truth about myself. A long line of patriots would be embarrassed by my behavior.
I’ve never thanked a police officer before… or a firefighter… or anyone on the armed forces… all of the faithful men and women who have made the ultimate choice; the choice to protect and defend.
It’s time to change that for myself on a personal level, but for this moment in time I will write… write for all of us delayed reactors who take terribly long detours in time to ruminate over just what you do for us.
Forgive us for our neglect…
Forgive us for our apathy…
Forgive us for never voicing our indebtedness…
Please forgive me.
I still cower in the corner. The officers have left. But as I splash the puddle off my keyboard, I bow my head and groan something my heart can’t seem to fully process. A very heartfelt