my dearly treasured son,
the boston tragedy this past week seems to have had many people reflecting on the events of sept 11, 2001, myself no exception.
i found out as i arrived for work in the morning, at the u of a center against sexual assault and relationship abuse. jackie, a friend and co-worker, was rushing out the door of our annex as i was ready to step inside. with a look of panic on her face, she said something to the effect of, “oh, it’s just so frightening!” seeing the blank look on my face, she spewed the words, “you don’t know? we’re being attacked!!”
those three words i will Never forget – “we’re being attacked.” my mind raced to understand what she meant. The ua? The oasis center? had we done something wrong? these thoughts in what was, in reality, less than a second, as the fear on her face led me to the terrible truth of what she was saying – that our country was being attacked.
world war two movie scenes and cold war fears flashed through my head, and i involuntarily looked up to the sky, expecting bombs to fall at any moment. i wanted to cover my head (i had been thus well trained as a child by “duck and cover”) and then i wanted my children with me, as if, simply by having you close, and by virtue of being your mother, i could keep you safe. again, not more than another second had passed. jackie was gone by the time i looked again to where she had been standing right in front of me.
i rushed to ‘old main’, the building on campus which housed the ua admin and our oasis center main offices, and called mary kate, who filled me in on what had actually happened – as much as we knew so far, that a plane had hit the world trade center in new york, and one had been headed, possibly, to the white house, but had crashed or been shot down.
though this information did nothing to assuage the desperate urgency of my need to keep you and your sister safe, i agreed that i would try to reach my sister while mk would try to reach you. i wanted desperately to hear you voice, but i knew that she, too, was feeling the need to know that you were safe. as i dialed and redialed to reach your aunt mary, the dangers to our specific areas sank in.
you were in d.c. – enough said there. my mom and sis weren’t far from frederick, where the us army creates its nerve gases and other airborne chemicals for use against enemies. and granddad, mary kate, and i in tucson, home of raytheon corp, designer/manufacturer of planes (and bombs?) for the military. all three would be likely targets to be taken out early in any comprehensive attack against our country.
once we knew that you, mary, and nana were so far safe, mk agreed to meet me at old main, where admin had set up a tv in the main reception area. over time, as we watched in horror, more details became clear and we began to understand that the scope of the attacks was limited to the trade centers, the cia in langley, and the failed white house attempt.
though the entire country seemed not to be under attack, i was acutely aware that none of us was truly safe. had the attacks accomplished what they set out to do, much of our leadership, and the structure we relied on, would have been severely inhibited. had it been not limited to a group of terrorists, but had, in fact, been another country intent on destroying the us, the attacks would have likely continued in areas all over the country.
the feeling i had, of my family, particularly my children, not being safe persisted in me for quite a long time. i wanted to hold you. i wanted to set up a rendezvous point to which we would make our way should there ever be a reason, be it war or an environmental disaster, such as earthquake or worse.
the need to know that one’s children are safe must be one of the strongest urges on the face of this earth. it is inherent, instinctive, in all creatures. there are indeed “ties that bind” us to one another, though i prefer to think of it as an energy which connects us all (two-legged and four-legged creatures alike), and is intensified in the parent-child relationship, particularly mother-child since your life begins inside her.
it would be difficult to explain the actual physical reality of that connectedness–or the physical pain associated with the terror of not knowing if your child (of whatever age) is safe. of course, the truth is that none of is really ever safe. our world, more than ever before, is a dangerous and always-changing place.
we must all learn to live with a level of uncertainty, to expect the unexpected, yet find a way to live in peace with that knowledge. our world and our individual lives are more uncertain than we ever realize. my body died last year. and i know, without a doubt, that having my children at my side contributed in some way to bringing me back to this life, to a chance to reaffirm the bond between us.
it is more important than ever to value relationships, and the many special things which are part of those relationships. things like your small son running to leap into your arms and wrap his little arms around you; the trust that he has that you will always catch and hold him; the trust he has to ride behind you on a motorcycle, where he wraps his arms around you and lays his head on your shoulder; the trust he has to share with you his innermost thoughts and the beliefs he is coming to as he journeys toward adulthood; the comforting arm he puts around your shoulder at his sister’s wedding reception in front of everyone there, as if saying, “this is my mom”; the comfort and pride you feel at times like that, your grown son supporting his mom; the pride you feel each time you look at him or talk to him; in the man he is becoming, then the man he has become.
i am so proud of who you are, andrew. it has been such a pleasure to watch you grow, exploring thoughts and ideas, creating your own beliefs, becoming who you are. my love for you is ceaseless, boundless.