Thursday, September 05, 2002

Oh my. This entry is a bit dark, guys. You may want to pass on this one.

I am scared of September 11th. I am scared of this anniversary. I am scared of walking into a newsroom and seeing everyone, all of the editors, watching television. I never want to see that again. It is never good.

I am scared of having to run to community centers, to churches, to schools, to photograph people screaming. I am scared of my cell phone ringing and people I love crying and telling me no one has heard from Erika and telling them, "Oh, shit, I love you, but I have to go, because people are screaming and I need to photograph it," and "Please call me when you hear from her. Please. I have to go. I love you."

I am more scared of having to run to places where people are screaming because buildings are falling and people are leaping, on fire, out into the sky. I am scared, because if that does happen, I will be there, and I won't *want* to be anywhere else but doing this job that I love so much because it's important.

I am scared because I have met or am acquainted with every. single. person who is interviewed for the "post-traumatic stress in the media" portion of the History Channel's documentary. I am scared because I know there are images they made that have never been seen by anyone but the people who shot them and their editors because they are unimaginably horrible.

I am scared of being in South Florida on this anniversary. I am scared because there are more terrorists living in the U.S., and they are probably here, where everyone falls on a continuum from really, really diverse and radical views to boring and plain and "retired," but I don't necessarily mean the people who come here at the age of 65 when they stop working at their lifelong jobs.

The terrorists went to flight school here for a reason. Saddam Hussein's stepson showed up here two months ago yesterday to enroll in flight school for a reason. It's crazy and disorganized and diverse and people can get lost here and no one will know. The mail doesn't get delivered the same way, and national chain pharmacies unquestioningly dispense three months worth of powerful anti-depressants, believing they are intended for a 5-year-old girl in Little Havana who shares my name. No one will know.

I am scared because people are wearing t-shirts that say "God bless America" with pictures of Osama bin Laden and shotgun targets over his head. I am scared because people are defacing mosques here. Not the "75 Virgins for Everyone Who Kills an Infidel" mosques, though those collectives are here, but do not announce themselves. They are defacing the nice, family-oriented Islamic faith communities where half the people wear ceremonial dress on holidays only and have explained and explained that they don't believe in the same vengeful God that the 9/11 hijackers did until they are hoarse, and then they have to scrub off the red paint, even though the people who committed the vandalism spelled "terrorists" wrong. T-E-R-R-E-R-I-S-T-S.

I am tired of being scared.

And I am hopeful.

I am hopeful because on December 21, 1988, I stood on a stage in a faux leather skirt and a gray sweater with fluorescent, geometric shapes on it and played "Holiday Hoedown" on the violin. Wendie Shenburger [sic] and Steffani Livinsky [sic] played along on either side of me. Wendie wore a turquoise sweater with knitted snowflakes on it; Steffani wore a black and white dress. And Pan Am 103 exploded in the skies over Lockerbie, Scotland.

I am hopeful because I grew up. I went to college, and I learned about the devastation an act of terrorism brings to a community.

I am hopeful because I went to Lockerbie and found friendship, love, Scottish history, and forgiveness for an act of terror. Women who washed a Mexican-type pullover dozens of times before they returned it to the mother of a guy named Nick, who emulated Ansel Adams, lived in my freshman dorm and shot Nikon.

I am hopeful because Erika *did* call us a year ago, when the phones finally worked again, and last winter, she stood on a stage and read on of the first readings of a play about the Scottish women who washed Nick's pullover.

I am hopeful because I took a lily for a girl who was a lot like me, except she loved volleyball, and when she interned at the @ssociated Press, she enjoyed it so much she went back for another summer. And when I met her mom, I told her about the lily, and she said, "I always take lilies to Alexia."

A Scottish fireman who drives the ambulance, the only person on duty that night, heard something fall outside the firehouse, rushed outside and found a girl. She was gone. He covered her with a blanket, but he couldn't return to her for three days, because an entire street was on fire. Winter turned to Spring, and he planted a pink rose bush for her and vowed to always care for it. He sent a photograph to the girl's mother, who told him that her daughter loved pink roses, her bedroom was decorated in nothing but pink roses, and everyone who loved her called her Rose, even though her name was Suzanne.

I am hopeful because Winter turned to Spring.

I am hopeful because I saw a calf take its first steps, sneezing out amniotic fluid. I am hopeful because a new herd now fills that field in Lockerbie, even though that calf and several other hundred head of cattle were destroyed to prevent the spread of hoof and mouth disease.

I am hopeful because the family who lives on that farm is happy and optimistic, and I know that the mother, the aunt and the daughter all naturally clap their hands over their mouths when they laugh.

I am hopeful because the little town in Scotland has shown us how to "wring every ounce of good out of the destruction that an act of terrorism wreaks."

I am hopeful because almost every day now, with the anniversary of September 11th almost upon us, I think about Lockerbie and what the people there have to teach us.

I am hopeful because I emailed a woman whose work I admire, who won a Pulitzer at 20 for her work on female genital mutilation, who put down her camera and became a midwife, and told her I heard she got married and congratulations, and hey, I used the locker in the London Centre darkroom that you used. And she wrote back and said, "I don't remember which one was mine, but I remember Alexia's locker."

I am hopeful because she remembers which one was Alexia's locker, too, and she is bringing babies into the world.

I am hopeful because literally everywhere I go, I find someone whose life was changed by Pan Am 103, and because our work there means something to them.

I am hopeful because tonight the Hiami Merald sent me out to do a story about a Children's Bereavement Center. I am hopeful because I met a 17-year-old boy whose father died when he was 4, and he is healing in this program. I am hopeful because his father died on Pan Am 103, and I can tell that man's son, now almost a man himself, that I know, for certain, his father didn't die in vain.

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