From Ruin Comes Transformation : A Personal Ground Zero

“When you walk through a storm Keep your chin up high And don't be afraid of the dark. At he end of the storm Is a golden sky And the sweet silver song of a lark.” ~ Rogers and Hammerstein

September 11, 2001… I woke up got my son ready for school and me ready for work. I did not watch the news or have a cell phone and until we walked out the front door, the world is a safe, fine and wonderful place.

My son was holding my hand as we walked out of the door and when I turned to lock the front door our next door neighbor said, “Isn’t awful…what do you think?...The twin towers…I guess we are at war.”

My son looked up at me and said, “I don’t want to go to school…what is somebody tries to take me?” That conversation would continues long after that day. Every day would start with, “Are we okay today, Mommy?” My son’s ideas about September 11th shocked me…every day. Sometimes the shock was delightful and sometimes it was gut wrenching. How did my baby grow up over night?

A week after the twin towers, we were driving home and he was looking out the window and then he blurted out,” Mom, I think I know what happened with the guys that made the twin towers blow up.. Some one made them do that and now they are in heaven like the other people.” I was in disbelief and asked him to tell me more of his thoughts. “Well this is what I think happened…I have been thinking about it a lot and I think the guys in the planes were listening to someone bad and angry. I don’t know if they knew they were being awful, because this bad person got into their heads. I think they got used and they just died and went to heaven like the rest of the people.”

What was interesting is that he had not said a word about the twin towers until this day. We talked more that day and for many days after and he always returned to the idea of forgiveness. “How could my little boy be so wise? How could he know about forgiveness…he is an innocent.”?

So here I am the “Big Girl” the “Mommy.” I am supposed to know stuff. I am supposed to have the answers about the hard stuff, the scary stuff, right? I was amazed for a whole bunch of reasons. You see, I have a pretty dicey past and I probably go around with some sort of guilty conscious about some passed wrong… most days. So my son’s idea of forgiveness and even redemption brought my brain and my heart to an emotional stand still.

The thing we all learn…all of us, is that all choices all actions have consequences. The consequences can be good and fruitful. Like when you donate your time to a homeless shelter serving food. Or when you help a friend with a difficult situation and hold their confidence without giving in to gossip. Those choices, those actions tend make most humans have a glad heart. An open heart. We feel good.

Then we have consequences that sting. They hurt because for whatever reason we have chosen to go against our own moral code. Maybe we engage in gossip. Gossip in my opinion is “The Social Weapon of Mass Destruction.”

You know I get it. I mean - I think I do. I think as humans we are all frail, apt to fall prey to the whims of greed, power, envy and the notion of social acceptability. Gossip is really just about power…false power and if you have ever been on the bad side of a rumor, you know the feeling…I hope.

So we know about choices and consequence and we become more knowledgeable as we age. And hopefully if we have made some choices that hurt, either us or someone else, we will be more thoughtful the next time the same choice comes along or even better… we learn to make amends.

So here I was with this five year old who seemed to have a greater understanding and compassion for humanity than I did. Here is the BIG question? Did he change me? Or did he learn that from me? Because in all my mistakes and all of my amends I never thought that I would actually be forgiven. Forgiveness was something I always wanted to experience-to feel and yet something about the workings of my mind would not let me. Self-forgiveness is probably the hardest thing we can ever do as humans in my opinion.

September 11 change everybody. Not just Americans and Muslims. Not just the men and women who fought gallantly to save the people that could be saved and in many cases lost their own lives while saving so many other. It wasn’t just about a crime against humanity. It was also about our ability to change. To try and understand why it happened. To seek the root of the cause. To have hard conversations. To meet people in the middle of the road. “To seek to forgive rather than be forgiven” (That’s from Saint Francis of Assisi)

After September 11 a lot of people, a lot of adults (although I use that word as more of a description of actual age, rather than sensibility) A lot of adults felt they needed to blame some one…any one. And it couldn’t be an American. It had to be someone, or a group of people we did not know very well and the charge was lead by our then president who felt (for the sake of his popularity and campaign) he needed a villain so that he could be a hero. The un-truths cooked up by the government would have no blame laid at the feet of their leader. Even though documented evidence proving that the fall out from September 11 would have long lasting and fatal effects on the same hero’s that saved so many people. Or that the people that lived in the surrounding Burroughs because of a “line” a “boundary” would not get medical care for diseases brought on by the debris that though invisible lived in the air of Manhattan for months.

My son once asked me,” Who are we? Why can’t we just say I am sorry and do the right thing? Why is it so important to be right even though it is a lie?”

Again my breath goes flat and I have no quick answer. Because there is no quick answer to the flaws in human nature that make so many of us so convinced that right is might. And not in the classic or biblical sense, but just in the sense that “Right is Right”. As in “I am right and you are wrong.”

Why is the American obsession so much about being right and not about just being real? Isn’t the actual idea of rightness about being truthful and honest? Authentic. Isn’t it better to make a choice, take a chance and then learn? Is this what they mean by growth at the speed of pain? We are a nation of VERY slow learners."

Whether you learn through pain or ecstatic joy…you learn. And from that lesson comes growth. You learn who you are and who you want to be. You learn to trust, love, be compassionate, be quiet, be helpful, we learn to be awake…in confusion, in crisis…to be a part of humanity. And by being a “part”…doing our part.

“If you can’t be the example of what TO DO…be the best example of what not to do.” “If you want to see change…be the change”

We are all perfect. Perfect individuals and we all have a divine purpose…all of us. This purpose may only show itself if we somehow engage in the business of being human. Trust me, the Easter Bunny, though delightful, will not deliver you a conscious. You have to find it and it is a personal journey. No rules or requirements and yours might differ from others. And like politics and religion…best to keep much of the process internal.

So what did I learn at school today? What did life teach me? What did my son tell me?

Well usually his answers these days are short and to the point. Usually now he just tells me to stop talking and listen. Listening for long enough will yield answers. You just have to be willing…to listen.

Right now my son is in his own "Ground Zero", he has pneumonia for the second time in six months. What is that saying..."Having children is like watching your heart walk around outside you body."

Ruin will happen just as change will happen and transformation will most certainly raise your awareness, bringing on more change and finally growth. These are sweet moments, when the storm calms and we feel the “silver lining.” We heal. We move on. We live.

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