5 years ago, the skies over America were silent – no commercial flights, no private planes, and nothing flying other than birds and the occasional jet fighter on patrol over major cities like Chicago.
I will never forget the leaden feeling of dread and grief that I carried around with me those first few days and weeks. During the nation-wide “flight hold,” it was hard to sleep at night, because the familiar roar of jets overhead on their way into and out of O’Hare was absent. The lack of something that I had previously found mildly annoying made for long, silent nights.
David was caught out of town in Toronto, Canada on a training session. His company (a small software concern) lost one person aboard one of the flights. My company lost at least 11, who had worked in the World Trade Center. We had all lost something incalculable.
There were occasional moments of joy; at work, we were finally able to start trying to book people flights to get home from where-ever they’d been stranded, and the first few flights overhead were cause for celebration (the building I work in is occasionally on the flight path, too). I remember one large 747, only the 2nd or 3rd plane we’d heard, actually approached on a lower flight path than usual, farther from the building, so we could see them as if they were passing in review. We stood at the windows and
waved as if we could be seen, knowing that aboard that aircraft, people were probably waving out at us, relieved to finally be arriving somewhere.
At home, I sat on the front porch one afternoon for an hour or so, until David drove up in his Canadian rental car, after he dropped off his co-worker. I greeted him like a soldier home from the wars, and felt guilty for getting my husband back when so many people had lost family a few days before. He had taken off on the last normal day in America, September 10th. The next day, we dropped the car off at O’Hare, where overflow lots full of dusty, road-weary rental cars from all over the country
filled every space, as yet more flights took off from the runway across the road. It was the most beautiful sight I’d yet seen that week, because it was sunset and everything was gently gilded. Chain link fences, rows upon rows of unwashed cars, and ascending aircraft silhouetted by the sun: all were beautiful.
Since then, I’ve gone from supporting “the President I didn’t vote for who maybe could be a leader after all,” to discounting “that idiot whose minions maneuvered him into the Oval Office.” He lost me not long after we went into Iraq; I desperately needed to believe he and Tony Blair were right and the reasons we were going there were valid. When I realized they weren’t, and we’d gone to war on a hunch and a hope, he lost me for good. It started, though, when Bush wore that ridiculous flight
suit on the deck of the aircraft carrier, and the mission was so obviously not accomplished. I realized we as a nation were being shamelessly manipulated.
Last night, as I was leaving a grocery store near work, a passenger jet flew low and slow into the overhead clouds, slipping in and out of the silvery greyness of a wet September evening. I recalled how 5 years ago, the skies were silent, and wept as I drove home with my mundane groceries rolling around on the seat behind me. I hope we won’t endure another attack like that again, but try to steel myself to be ready to deal with it if necessary. We can’t “win”a
“war” against a religio-political strategery, if our very efforts to “win” are the most successful recruiting tool for the people whose particular strain of religious faith leads them to kill and maim non-believers.
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