The despair I felt on that day and the months that followed has faded, but I still carry with me the knowledge that we're vulnerable, we Americans who have assigned ourselves the task of ruling the world, taking care of everybody else at the expense of our own children, who put money before everything else, push our dogmatic opinions about how people should believe on those perfectly happy with their own beliefs. We who look the other way at some atrocities but shine the spotlight on the ones that we will benefit from preventing. We who have a few leaders who are in some ways as corrupt and unresponsive as the mightiest dictator.
And yet, and yet, I still believe that America has the power to be important in the world in all the right ways. A belief that is based on looking around at my friends and my churches and my children, and seeing an idealism that can't be suppressed. A belief that is reinforced when one church prays solidly for twenty-four hours for peace, another sends a group to do work for the impoverished, when I hug my daughters good-bye, when I kiss the cheek of a friend or hear another say I must write my Congressman because she believes the system still works. A belief that becomes more imperative as the old generation in my family dies away and we bring new life into a world that must be supported by hope and compassion.
This morning I stood in my kitchen thinking about this day twelve years ago. This song came on my IPod and cornily enough a hummingbird flew through the honeysuckle on my deck. Signs of sorrow and hope to a person who constantly looks for signs.
Once when I was a child spending the night with my grandmother, I was very homesick. I started crying, and didn't want her to see me. She came into the room and asked me what was the matter. I remembered hearing that people cried sometimes when they were happy, so I blurted out, "Oh Granny, I'm just so happy to be here!"
That story has become part of my legend, but it also expresses in a way how I feel today. Homesick for the days when we hadn't experienced September 11, 2001, but at the same time happy that I have my family and friends and the belief that on a small scale--person to person--we're doing it right.