"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Friday, September 11, 2009


As of this post, the fires in California are close to being vanquished - I believe they call it being "contained" which is apparently not the same as "out". I want to thank everyone for their thoughts and prayers. I passed them on to the firefighters, the weather, and God. But this post is not about fires, at least not in a specific way.

It's September 11, a day of remembrance. I can't call it an anniversary, since that word sounds like we should have a party. If you're like me, you probably don't know what you should do, but partying is not on the list.

What do you do on a date like this? Perhaps we should go about our day solemnly, with no laughter or gaiety, reflecting and praying, and promising to right the wrong that was done.

I don't know how much more I need to reflect. When my mind rolls across the phrase, "Nine Eleven", it immediately summons where I was and what I was doing. The morning started when I turned on the news at seven, three hours behind New York time. I watched the attack in disbelief, as it played over and over. Later, the news service would take a sensitive turn and stop showing the footage of the planes entering the buildings, but it's too late for me. The tape runs through my head anyway.

I somehow had to explain it all to my 8-year old, who became immediately worried that we would not be safe. It was one of those moments when you're glad you live in a little 'burb and are of no consequence to any great power. (Just between you and me, I doubt if our Govenor knows where Placentia is.) By the time I dropped my son off at school, he was calm, although still thoughtful.

This was the day of my morning riding lesson. My trainer, Tina, and I discussed the horrorific event while I got my horse ready. We were still in a state of shock. During my lesson, my mare was an absolute pill. At one point, she reared, spun on her back leg, and dumped me. It was the last time she ever threw me.

Over the next few weeks, I was surprised at the reactions of both myself and my friends. I suddenly felt a compulsion to tell everyone I met, "I'm so glad you're alive!" I mean everyone - even the lady at the Carl's Jr. drive-thru. Mostly, I resisted the impulse, although people might have noticed I was extra happy to see them. I also contacted, or tried to contact, people from my past. Old girlfriends from high school were difficult, since we do tend to change our names, but I sent an email to my 1st husband, and one to an old boyfriend, not to rekindle anything, but just to make sure they were safe.

I wanted everyone to be safe.

On the downside, a friend of mine who I had always thought of as open-minded, told me she didn't at all mind if all of the Arabic people in the country were rounded up. That was her way of being safe. I responded that I hadn't seen all the 25-year old white boys rounded up when the Oklahoma City bombing occurred, and I would hate to see my son's former babysitters, a lovely Lebanese family, harassed because of their ethnic heritage.

We're no longer friends.

All this floods back to me in an instant. Reflection isn't something I need to do.

I think, what I need to do, is forgive. Forgetting is out of the question, but if I cannot forgive those misguided souls for their heinous acts, I'm ultimately hurting myself. They did what they did with the belief they would ascend to the uppermost level of their heaven; we may believe differently, but I imagine their last breaths were taken in happy, if nervous, anticipation. My last breath may be years away (okay, I'm hoping my tombstone says, "She was really old"), but why shouldn't I always live in happy anticipation of each new moment? If my remaining years are filled with anger and fear, I think it's the icing on their cake.

Forgiveness is hard, but I'm going to choose happy over hate.

P.S. I was going to include a picture with this post, but the images of that day still break my heart.


Ali said...

I don't really have any words, which is rare for me. I saw the footage, too, and it still plays through my mind. Thanks for posting this.

dino martin peters said...

The opposite of love is not hate, but fear...if we live in constant fear of others, we will never be able to love....good for you Miss Gayle Carline for choosing to work at forgiving....giving forth reduces the need to fear and can move us to loving action.

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