With that in mind I am writing this one about 9/11. And we are coming upon that anniversary shortly. All of us, of course, were affected by this tragedy no matter where anyone was when it happened. Shoshipo, from what I read about her in her intro, was actually working in one of the towers, and I know a few of us live nearer to the DC area and have also had experience’ that are profound. Each one of us can probably write pages of what that event was to us and the long lasting changes it brought to each of us.
At the time I was back in college (even as an old lady I still haven’t decided what I want to be when I grow up so I am always back and forth with school). One of the classes I was taking was Constitutional Law. It was a great class, very thought provoking and not being a kid who HAD to be there, I was one of those older students who really WANTED to be there. So I just ate it all up.
Our final exam was really a take-home term paper with a set of questions regarding each Constitutional Amendment and what it meant then and what we thought it means now within the context of the contemporary and changing world. And, should laws be interpreted differently in times of war or threat.
And one of the questions was during this class in 2001 was: “During times of War, should the burning of the American flag be unlawful or is it a right protected under our Constitution as a lawful expression?”
And my response was:
“My own intellectual answers aren’t any different because we have troops engaged in combat in foreign countries. I suspect though, that more issues will bubble up (if they haven’t already) by virtue of actions taken since 9/11. Certainly the First, Fourth, Sixth and Eighth Amendments will be tested at great length in the future years.
On the other hand, my emotions have changed, and I suspect will continue to change, as I have watched this last century close and this new century begin. Being a “child of the sixties” (I was eighteen during my first year of college in 1971) and I remember an ambivalence about the Viet Nam War and the protests going on. Perhaps that was because my own immediate peers were just short of the lottery and I knew no one personally who served in Viet Nam. Some of my friends had older brothers who did and died… but that war, even then, wasn’t so real to me.
In the attic of my mind, I do have memories of sitting with a small group protesting the Viet Nam War (they were Veterans). A friend and I, on our way to Virginia, during Spring Break of 1972, saw them and decided to stop by and visit. They were camped out on the sidewalk in front of the White House. They had been there for some weeks, literally camped out with sleeping bags and canned goods and cardboard signs. This obviously was long before the barricades all over Washington D. C. now or closing Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House. One of these individuals, as an expression of his disdain for the government, even urinated through the black wrought iron fence so that he could leave his own expressive mark on the White House lawn. I remember being so surprised and angry that none of this particular protest had been in any of the news. And, I remember tourists screaming obscenities at these
“kids” as they drove by. Their own individual form of free speech came in the form of expletives along with “…you perverted hippies you just don’t appreciate what that flag is for!!!”
On September 12th, 2001 I had what some may call the privilege of being at Ground Zero (all day and into the night) in my capacity as one of the many EMT’s from the surrounding areas who were called to assist with any life support needed at that site. Strangely, I remember few words spoken that entire day. I have images of sights and smells with some few sounds but little or no words uttered from the hundreds of people who converged on that there and spent so many hours there. It struck me so profoundly that no one spoke at all. The only utterances were directly related to a need at the time. “Make sure you wear your mask.” Or, “They have dry socks over there.” Or, “I think they found something…”
Other than that it was silent. The silence was enhanced by the flocking of dust everywhere. The Financial Center and the pier in front of it looked like it had been covered in inches of soft gray snow. What I knew to be all glass facade buildings now looked like cement structures without windows. All footsteps were quieted by this “snow.” And any other of the few sounds were softened by this snow. If I try to isolate what I remember hearing – it would be the beeping of the back up signals from the trucks that had moved in to re-arrange the devastation in hopes of finding persons; the humming of generators was also a constant in the background; and, then there were the clinking for firemen’s tools swinging from their hips as they walked by. But again, little else, and hardly any words at all.
I felt guilty coming home late that night because everyone who wasn’t there had such hope that survivors would be found. I knew better having been there that there could be nothing living there. And, I remember calling my father (the biggest red-neck, NRA card carrying bag of wind I know who happens to be a WWII veteran having served as a NAVY SEAL (or whatever they called that group then) and telling him: “Now I know why veterans can only talk to veterans about their common experience. No one who hasn’t ‘been there’ can possibly understand.” And I told him I felt as If I had now seen War for the first time and he told me I did and he cried.
The next day I tried to find an American flag. I searched throughout my house, old school supplies, Fourth of July decorations (did I ever have any). I tried so many stores. I tried looking in the cabinets of the Ambulance building. I couldn’t find any. There were none to be found or had on September 13th that people hadn’t bought or found already.
And, then I recalled years back, my boyfriend at the time, in 1971, had a rather large piece of one sewn onto the seat of his jeans...