Remembering September 11, 2001

Our week in Hana was restful as intended, and we moved from breakfast to lunch to dinner in a dream of walking and waking and reading and writing and watching the surf crest and pound the rocks below the lawns.  The warm moist air slowed us down.  We rested.  In fact we never hiked up to Fagan’s Cross or cross country to Homoa Beach.  We did revisit Hana Bay and the Cultural Center where Meiling takes good care to keep my novel available, Hana-lani, which is set here in the Hana area.

The sun was hot, and the air sweetly moist, the scuttling clouds brilliantly white, the days surreal in their beauty.  The moon grew full and lit the sky of white shapes traveling over the star speckled darkness, the palm fingers waving their silhouettes into the canvas of midnight blues.  We walked across the lawn in the evening light, following the path from dinner to bed and climbed wooden stairs to our bungalow.  The whir of ceiling fans and the roar of the sea lulled us to sleep, then we woke when rain suddenly poured upon the tin roof.

It is a soft way of life, gentle and soothing.  No air conditioning.  No TV.  No radios.  No clocks.  Internet in the hotel library.  We listen to the surf and the winds and we inhale the intense aromas of watered flowers and grass, the plumeria and jasmine.  We watch the sun rise up from the sea, a thin red band bordering the cumulus, and later set behind the volcano’s green flanks, shooting rays into the heavens.  The staff is friendly and remembers us.  We remember them.  They have become our friends from far away, friends that help us to rest. Michelle, Jay, Laura, Bryan, Styles, Kim, Joan.  Lei was home with a new grandbaby and we sent our best wishes but missed her sweet winsome welcome.  Landa and Keo and Kepaka.  Patrick.  Kim’s husband who has more jobs than I can count and plays a mean ukelele.  Mark the Manager and his lovely wife.  Hoku.

But we had to say goodbye and flew to another island early Saturday morning as a rain storm cleared and marathon runners were descending on the Hana Highway. Today, on the Kohala Coast, we gaze out to a gentle bay, sweetly curved with its manicured sand and umbrellas, a lawn shaded by towering palms.  No ceiling fans here.

But today is September 11, a national day of mourning which our nation has turned into victory of sorts.  Wanting to remember this day, to honor it, I followed some of the TV coverage, heard some of the stories once again, saw some footage I had not seen, as writers and producers pull together timelines and time and the ten years that have elapsed.

We try to understand, to make sense of the tragedy.  We look for meaning so that we can bear the pain.  The attack on the Twin Towers by terrorists was a horrific tragedy but was not nearly of the proportions of the Holocaust, not nearly of the proportions of the million innocents aborted each year.  Yet somehow this attack, being so intentionally symbolic, strikes especially dissonant and heart wrenching chords in our national spirit.  For the planes hit our economic center, the twin towers of trade.  They hit our military center, the Pentagon.  They aimed at the symbolic center of government, the White House.  Not understanding our balance of powers, they probably didn’t think of the Supreme Court and Capitol Hill.  This orchestrated effort was a clear and powerful message.

We were hurt deeply.  We need the conversation to continue, to retell and remember with the telling, certainly so that we do not forget, but also to create our own intentional symbols of victory.  This is happening, and as I listened to the stories of the firemen and the tapes of the downed plane in Pennsylvania heading for the White House, the testimony of civic leaders, the wise handling of the crisis by our President, I could see a new tapestry emerging, woven from the shredded threads of that horrible day.  It is a tapestry that must not be left in a forgotten room but woven into the weave of the flag.  The Twin Towers memorial remembers, and it testifies to the future, and soon we will see the new towers rise higher than those that fell.  Everywhere in the memorial are the symbols of freedom and rebirth.  We too can use image to proclaim our way of life, our way of freedom.

Not the freedom to steal, murder, cheat, abuse, threaten.  We want to protect freedom of speech, religion, race, gender.  We want the freedom to worship as we choose, to decide our own government, to build and to create.  We want the freedom to live in safe neighborhoods, to protect the law-abiding from the lawbreakers, to raise our children ourselves, to support marriage and family.  And we want a world like this for our children, our grandchildren, our great grandchildren.

I missed church today.  It was not only Nine-Eleven, but it was Grandparents Day, and I am a happy grandparent of eight.  But even more importantly, it was a great day of celebration in our little parish.  Our Church School was opening and our Archbishop was visiting.  On this occasion he would bless our new Children’s Chapel.  Afterwards, everyone was going to enjoy an Old Fashioned Ice Cream Social.  All my favorites – Sunday School and the children, a glorious Mass with our beloved Archbishop, our Children’s Chapel Blessing, after many months of preparations and renewal over the last year.  And I love ice cream sundaes.

I looked out to the sea and the crashing surf and I prayed for our parish and its lovely celebrations on this Sunday, today, September 11.  I considered how the two were so vitally related and appropriately sharing the day – for it is these gatherings of faith, it is these times when we meet God in the Mass, it is these moments when we celebrate the generations and pass our heritage on to our children, it is in these communities that our victory over the terrorists is won.

It is family, community, and faith that we shall fight for.  It is the freedom to live our lives as we choose that we shall fight for. We are stronger for having done battle for these things.

I hear the surf and walk and read and write.  I say my prayers.  I give thanks for these brave men and women who give their lives for us all, so that we may hear the surf, walk and read and write, and say our prayers.

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