31 January 2005

Single...With Children: We're Still Standing Tall

Single with Children: Sept. 11 anniversary reminds us of what we cherish

By Susie Parker
Publication Date: 09/11/02

It's hard to imagine that a year ago on this day, our lives as Americans were forever changed in ways that we could never have imagined on Sept. 10, 2001. In some ways I can't remember what life felt like before what is now dubbed "9/11." In other ways, life has slipped right back into normal. Yet, the normal we all knew and took for granted probably never will be felt or seen again. Not only were two large skyscrapers that epitomized the New York City skyline destroyed, a chunk of the Pentagon charred and a piece of farmland in the state of Pennsylvania slashed and burned, but in an equally real sense, every one of our lives were scarred in ways that are physically invisible, but psychologically and emotionally undeniable.

We are a different people.

Rather than dwell on what we, as Americans, lost, perhaps it's important to focus on what we have been able to maintain and rise above. I prefer thinking in those terms because, in my own mind, it somehow negates and ignores the evil of a few deranged and misdirected individuals who mistakenly thought they could bring our country to its knees. I believe their goal was thwarted, and I don't believe those terrorists counted on our resilience, our compassion and our fierce ability to get right back to the way of life that has always defined the best of what is America.

I need look no further than the street where I live. The only real reminder I see of that horrific day are more stars, more stripes, more outward signs of a patriotism that was always alive and well though not so visibly displayed. Have you realized how many cars are now adorned with some symbol of pride in America? I see as many teenagers and young adults sporting American symbols on their vehicles as I do on those of families sporting soccer balls or those of older Americans tooling around in more conservative vehicles. I think we've all learned in this past year of finding our way back that American patriotism is not at all age- or gender-specific. It's a statement that we're more than a little proud to make.

As I was driving through a park the other day, I saw signs announcing signups for fall Little League programs. Kids were chasing across the green lawns as parents carried all measure of equipment and tried to catch up to eager siblings wanting to sign up, even though they weren't as tall as the requisite baseball bat. You have to love all that abundance of optimistic enthusiasm. There wasn't a metal detector in sight.

When I drop my son off at his high school each morning, it's comforting to see the still sleepy faces of teenagers dreading the morning bell signaling a return to classes and life as we've known and lived it for decades. It's supposed to look like that, and one year later it still does.

Some things have changed, and we're the better for it. Churches are reporting higher and more faithful attendance. People seem to be kinder with one another. I look in the eyes of my neighbors, friends and acquaintances, and I see a more genuine look in eyes that saw, as I did, that awful footage of those planes ramming into those towers 12 months ago, but I don't really detect any fear. Perhaps it is a more palpable sense of compassion. We know what we've been through, and we empathize.

The television news outlets left no doubt what we lost a year ago today, but we also are reminded of what we still possess and cherish. People matter, and maybe we're a little more open to showing that we understand the fragility that was always attached to life. Maybe we all realize just how precious every single human being is.

It's been reported that families have become closer and that a lot of broken human connections and relationships have been mended in the past year. There was a lot of perspective re-evaluation, I think, and what previously might have seemed insurmountable in terms of interpersonal relationships, especially in the realm of blended families, inspired many of us to seek out what binds us together rather than what we had previously allowed to pull us apart. Life is fleeting, and now we know better than to take a lot of the intangible, yet essential, parts of life for granted.

Even in our darkest hour, in the face of a terroristic threat that this country had never experienced on our own soil, we started rebuilding. We grieved with each other. We hugged people we might not even have made eye contact with on the street the day before. We searched each other out for comfort and understanding, and we delivered. We also learned to receive.

Both small town and big city America rose above the ashes and the ruins and though the steel that held those towers together melted, the steely resolve that defines our very nature to not only get back on course, but blaze an even more meaningful trail, is alive, well and thriving. Most importantly, I think we allowed our hearts to grow as we reached beyond ourselves to lend a hand to others who couldn't quite stand up right away. Perhaps that is the finest and most powerful answer when evil dares to show its face.

Readers can e-mail Susie Parker at Susiewrites@gmail.com or write to her c/o Amarillo Globe-News, Features Dept., P.O. Box 2091, Amarillo, TX 79166.

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