Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Vigilance Versus Fear

For most Americans, September 11 is a day of reflection, and I, too, pause to remember where I was twelve years ago when my safe suburban world was rocked with fear, confusion, and grief.  

With the first plane already on its unspeakable trajectory, I was running errands across town, and listening to Howard Stern on my car radio. I became aware (as did Stern) that something was very wrong in New York City. As black smoke billowed from the first tower, and the second plane ripped into the adjacent one, Stern could longer deny the fact that two planes do not crash of their own accord on a clear, sunny September morning. I tried, unsuccessfully, to reach my husband on his cell phone. As my panic grew, I instinctively turned my car around and headed for the high school where, without hesitation, I had my 14-year-old daughter paged and released. From there, we drove to her 7-year-old brother's elementary school a few miles away where I repeated the same scene. With two out of three of my children safely in tow, I drove home and settled them in the upstairs television room.  From there, I made the 40-minute drive to pick up my 9-year-old daughter who had just entered her first week of private school in Providence. As Lindsey and I drove south on I-95, I tried to keep my mounting fear in check as the final plane descended into the Pennsylvania field. For all I knew, our entire country was under attack by unseen forces, and my first and only response as a mother was to collect my children, assemble them in the safety of our home, and await whatever came next. For the rest of that day, and into the night, as details unfolded, I stood vigil over my young family.

At 26, 21, and 19 years of age, my children aren't children anymore, but I'm still their mother, and every cell in my body is programmed to protect them. As they have grown older and reached for lives of their own, my ability to protect them, to stand vigil, has had to mature. I can warn my daughters of the dangers lurking in mall parking lots. I can remind my son of the risks of hydroplaning in the high speed lane. But like that day twelve years ago, I must keep fear in check; I must remain mindful that, as scary as the world can sometimes be, irrepressible acts of kindness abound if we are willing to look for them. My middle daughter's thoughtful text to me this morning is a good example of kindness:

"Miss you.  Remembering 9/11.
Thank you for always looking out for me,
and being there when I need you.  Love you.  Lindsey."

For me, my daughter's remembrance of that day, and her take-away sense of safety and self, remind me that there's a huge difference between vigilance and fear.

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