Ten years ago I lived in another state and my son was still alive on the morning when the unimaginable happened. I will never forget my son’s shout for me to come to family room where he was watching television. It was morning, I remember. I thought my son had hurt himself and I flew into the room as he cried out, “Look mom, oh God, look!” It was thus that I saw the second air plane fly into a tower of the World Trade Center. It looked like a scene from a movie set, as the enormous air plane flew straight into the huge building, punching a hole through concrete and steel. Parts of the plane emerged on the other side and plunged toward the ground. The other tower, I now noted, looked like a wounded, bleeding arm, reaching for the sky.
My knees gave way. In horrible bewilderment I sank into a chair. “What? What is this?” I wondered. “These are attacks on the World Trade Center,” said Michael, who had already heard a few snatches by the commentators. I remember tears spilled from my eyes as I watched the horror. I did not notice them then. Visions of my WWII early childhood in Germany came to the fore: bombs falling, houses disintegrating, craters erupting before us as we ran through streets. War—I had hoped never to be in another.
As the day wore on we heard the details of the assault, heard who the perpetrators were and that there had been other targets. I attended somnambulistic to chores. I think I fed people and cleaned up, but none in my family was ever far from the television, seeking for information.
The before I had baked German Pflaumenkuchen, (plum cake,) sheets of it, because I expected guests on this day that had turned horrific. It was my day to host our neighborhood book-club of about fifteen women. The first call came from a friend now dead. “Will you still have the club at your house today?” she asked. I said yes, I would. “I will be damned if I alter my life to the dictates of terrorists.” “I cannot come,” said my friend and there were tears in her voice. “I cannot quit crying and I am sick to death by the whole thing.” “You must come,” I coaxed. “If you don’t you are fulfilling their desire to scare us, to isolate us—to mess with our lives. We must talk about this. Examine what this means for us in the future, but most of all we must comfort each other, for we all hurt.”
I said these same words many more times on that day. Some of the women held the same view as I and felt as I did. They required no coaxing. In the end, all the women came. We cried, we talked, examined the horror spread by mind-set of the seventh century, talked about rabid Islamists and their abhorrence of freedom, especially women’s freedom. We ate Pflaumenkuchen heaped with heavy, sweet whipped cream and drank coffee. Nothing removed our pain and anger, nothing could make it well again, but underneath, deep in our soul a small spark began to make us realize that the perpetrators of such crimes would never be able to find us such an easy target.
I was wrong! Terrorists found us an easy target once more in Libya on September, 11 2012. Terrorists only appreciate strength and a show of force—all else to them is the weakness and maudlin softness of an effete society.