Sunday, September 11, 2011

Time To Forget

That evening, after walking from the city to Falls Church because our car was locked away in a building that had received an opportunistic bomb threat, we sat downstairs with our children.  We were physically tired, but that was nothing.  We were emotionally drained, taken down to nothing by the events of the day, still struggling to process the great black pillar of smoke against the perfect crystal sky.  The helicopters.  The fighters, roaring overhead, loaded for bear.  Being two drops in that river of humanity flowing from the city, trivial extras in some big budget disaster film.

The television ran clip after clip, of bodies falling and towers falling.  Then they replayed them.  And replayed them again.  Late in the evening, Dubya had come on, looking and speaking like someone had recently whacked him in the back of the head with a bat.  It was not reassuring.  Then back to towers falling, and people falling, and people talking anxiously.  And pictures of dark black smoke against a crystal blue sky.

Our three year old, curious as always, peppered me with questions while the one-year old goofed about.  What's happening, Daddy?  What's happening to those buildings, Daddy?  I tried to give him some gentle but not-lying answers, and then realized it was time to turn off the big pipe of endlessly cycling fear and horror that was pouring into our home.

I did, and as this was 2001, I put a tape into the VCR.  VeggieTales, as it happened.  The boys stilled to watch it, and I curled up on the sofa with my wife.  It could easily have been the night before.  There were no rumbles of bombardment, no panicked cries, no sounds of war.  Instead, there was Larry the Cucumber and Bob the Tomato.  They were sharing gently mischievous lessons about kindness and compassion.  

When the time came for Silly Songs with Larry, it was the Song of the Cebu.  I found myself unable to stop smiling.  It was a place of grace, a place to set aside the fear for a moment and be safe with the little ones and my wife half-asleep on my shoulder.

We need those places if we are to heal.  Terror and fear and anxiety can't always be in the forefront of our minds, day after day, year after year.  The inability to move forward and to find islands of forgetting does bad things to our souls, makes us too hard or too weak.  Or both.

That is true for human beings.  It is also true for the hearts of nations.