Examining the Broken Glass of 9/11- Thank you Gander, Newfoundland

Sometimes, loss is so all-encompassing, so gut-wrenching, so tangible, it seems you might take it out, turn it round in your hand, and examine it – just like it’s a piece of broken glass. It hurts to touch. You bleed. But you keep touching. And even though time and touch may eventually round its edges a little, it’s still glass. It can still cut – whether you hold it in your hand, or bury it in your heart.

I first wrote those words shortly after my dad had been killed. I learned that there are some hurts from which you don’t recover. Time doesn’t heal the wound. Instead, time lets you get used to the pain, to co-exist with it, so you can find a way to get up every morning.

And while the world found a way to get up every morning for the past ten years, we relived the horrors that were 9/11 yesterday. We all gathered around the TV set. We took out the buried hurt, put it in our hands, and examined it. The broken glass still hurt to touch. We bled. But we kept touching. Even though a decade of touch has rounded the edges a little, it’s still glass. It still cut.

Some think it’s ghoulish to invite the pain. To watch it all, again. I don’t. Anniversaries force us to reflect. They mark the chapters of our life. My husband and I will celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary in October – we will celebrate. My family marked the 5th anniversary since my dad’s tragic accident in September – we mourned. And with the 10th anniversary of 9/11, I snuggled with my children in bed at 8:46 am yesterday morning to watch  “102 Minutes that Changed America.”  http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/102-minutes-changed-america/

My five year old loves watching CSI. She’s old beyond her years. She’d heard about 9/11, and wanted to watch the “movie” with us about things that’d happened long before she was born. I couldn’t shelter her older sister years before, when she’d asked me why God would take her Poppy (she’d been about the same age as my youngest is now). So, I knew I couldn’t shelter the little one when she asked why men would purposefully fly a plane into a building to kill themselves and countless innocents. All of the religious, political, and metaphysical stuff  just falls away to nothingness in the eyes of a child.

So – you focus on the good.

Thank you, Gander, Newfoundland, for reminding me, again, of all that is good.

Ten years after 9/11, the world’s attention was on my home province yesterday. On September 11, 2001; US Airspace was closed moments after the enormity of the attack on New York City was realized. Thirty-eight jetliners landed in Gander, Newfoundland; doubling the community’s size in a matter of hours.

See http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2011/09/11/canada-remembers-september-11-gander-newfoundland_n_957214.html , and read the Jim DeFede book  http://www.harpercollins.ca/books/Day-World-Came-Town-Jim-Defede/?isbn=9780060559717

Gander has long served as an international airport. See http://www.ganderairport.com/history.htm There was no doubt that Gander airport, CYQX, had the runways for the large jets, and it could handle the aircraft. But, I’m not sure much forethought was given to the 6,600 passengers and crew suddenly in need of food, shelter, and comfort. Not that there was time for forethought…. but there certainly wasn’t a preponderance of 2,000 room hotels nearby. The people of Gander opened their hearts. They welcomed strangers into their homes. And, as Huffpost notes, “Prescriptions were filled without charge, and schools and church halls became shelters.” See http://www.ganderairport.com/911.htm

As Jim DeFede wrote, the world had indeed come to town. “For the better part of a week, nearly every man, woman, and child in Gander and the surrounding smaller towns stopped what they were doing so they could help. They placed their lives on hold for a group of strangers and asked for nothing in return. They affirmed the basic goodness of man at a time when it was easy to doubt such humanity still existed.”

Yesterday, the U.S. Ambassador to Canada, David Jacobson, travelled to Gander for a memorial service. His speech is covered here. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2011/09/11/canada-sept11.html The Ambassador quoted Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night: “Be not afraid of greatness.” And he spoke about how greatness had been thrust upon the people of Gander. He talked about how “the plane people” had landed on a solid rock of humanity, and how, “without waiting to be asked,” the people of Gander gave light to darkness. He paid tribute to the fact that the people of Gander had no way of knowing whether those diverted planes had terrorists onboard, but: “You did not flinch. You took the planes. You took the risk. You welcomed all. The same was true across the rest of Canada… You affirmed – with grace, and with compassion, and with good humour – our faith in the goodness of people. You were the best of us.”

I am proud to be a Newfoundlander. I am proud that people of my home province showed no fear when greatness was thrust upon them. And the message I hope my daughters will take away from our watching of the documentary, the media coverage, and the memorial services yesterday is that: Yes, the broken glass may have its edges rounded a little, and, yes, it still hurts to touch. You may still bleed. But let what happened in Gander be the salve. Focus on the good. Focus on the spirit of resilience. Focus on the future.