Today is the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Towers, the Pentagon, and the thwarted attack on the US capitol. 2,977 people lost their lives that day and most of us remember it vividly. It is seared into our DNA. Most of us, after ten years, are able to look past the events of that day and live normal lives. Others are still crippled by grief.
We all have a 9/11 story. Every one of us.
We’d like you, our family, to feel free to share your story with us. What do you remember from that day? What prayers would you like to offer for peace, not just the absence of violence, but peace in our souls? Do you need healing? Ask for it. Can you offer healing? Offer it. Our only request is that you do not delve into political statements and that you honor one anothers words and personal truth.
Here is my 9/11 story.
9/11, the days leading up to it and the days after it, are painful to get through. It’s everything I can do just to brush my teeth. I avoid reading articles and blog posts about it. Salt in an open wound.
I lost one of my best friends, and Air Force buddy and matron of honor at my wedding. I didn’t know she was in one of the towers while I sat in stalled traffic on 394 that morning ten years ago. She was on a sales call, visiting one of the offices. Early bird gets the sale. I was horrified hearing the radio news report that a second plane had hit a tower and, judging by how the traffic slowed and then stopped as people lost focus on driving, the other drivers shared my horror. Traffic stopped. And it felt like the world stopped. Each year the world should stop again and it doesn’t and that feels wrong
No. I didn’t know that R was already dead, if she was lucky. My mind flashes to all kinds of possible deaths for her. While I was talking to my boss about the attack, was R jumping to her death to avoid the worse fate of burning? To this day, I can be making breakfast and I can hear the ‘thump’ as she hits the pavement. It jolts through my entire body. Did she pray? Perhaps she died from the smoke. That’s as happy a thought as I can come up with.
It’s difficult for me to hear about Pagans using this day to learn more about Islam, using it as a platform to attack the political party of choice, or being bored by the coverage because it harshes their mellow. I get why they do that, in my head, but it hurts my heart. Why aren’t they praying for justice and comfort to the Gods we honor? Why aren’t they learning the names of those who died? Why aren’t they making offerings to Heroes of 9/11, that they may continue to look after our country? Why aren’t they screaming? Screaming like R must have been screaming when she felt the building start to fall?
Why aren’t I screaming? Screaming? Hell, I can’t even speak out loud about it. To this day, I’ve said exactly one sentence to my husband about R dying. In Hellenic burial ceremonies the family shouts the name of the dead three times and then they leave the burial site. It’s supposed to be a way to separate the living from the dead. I won’t say R’s name out loud. I can’t. I think if my mouth opens, I will starting screaming and not stop. All I can do is type while I pray and pray and pray that R’s last moments were not ones of fear and pain.
She was a really wonderful person. She was tough when she needed to be and kind all of the time. Truly compassionate. When I arrived in Spain, my first duty assignment in the USAF, she was the one who helped me settle in. She watched out for me and showed me the ropes. We were so inseparable that we were investigated by the OSI for being gay. I loved her. Her hair smelled of Suave. She chewed her nails. She wore dangle earrings and had a graceful neck.
I push away thoughts of her coughing and gasping for air. I want to picture her at peace. I try to remember her as we were on one of the better nights of my life. We were bar hopping in Madrid and it was late (or early, depending on how you look at it) and it started to rain. We wanted to go to bar down the street so I took off my long coat and we held it over our heads and laughed as we ran for it, companionably bumping into each other. Neither one of us are like that anymore. R died because some evil bastards wanted to make a point and I don’t know how you recover from that. Not just the death, but knowing someone you loved died to make a point.
I’ve had people close to me die and some of them have been violent deaths. A friend of mine killed his ex-girlfriend and then himself. It was a shock and you feel guilt for grieving for a person who did such an unspeakable act. But this is totally different and I feel lost and bewildered and don’t know what to do.
I’ve drank. Some years I plan a ton of activities to distract myself. Or I lay in bed all day. Three years ago I tried to pray and make an offering to the Heroes of Flight 93, but I couldn’t. I think I’ll be able to this year. There is a growing Hero cultus in Hellenismos for the 9/11 heroes and I take great comfort in that. I give money each year for the memorial to Flight 93 in Pennsylvania. The photos of the site are beautiful and I hope to make a trip there and place my offerings like other Hellenic Pagans are doing. I especially like that the group creating the memorial publicly acknowledge that they picked the exact site because of an omen. Omens are a significant method of divining the will of the Gods in Hellenismos.
“On a cold winter day in 2002 committee members Ellen Saracini, Grace Godshalk, Tara Bane and Fiona Havlish found a tattered flag caught in the brush in an undeveloped township park. This was to be the omen that marked the spot for the future memorial.”
Hector Lugo honors the Passengers of Flight 93 as American Heroes in the Hellenic tradition. He sent out a prayer last year and I’d like to share it with you. Hector, in honoring the dead and paying tribute to the Heroes of 9/11 using our religion’s practices, is making this day sacred and bearable for me. He is giving me a framework and a support system from within our shared spirituality of Hellenismos to deal with the emotional burden I carry. People like Selena Fox, at Circle Sanctuary, is doing likewise for those follow a more Wiccan form of Paganism. (Please check out the facebook page, Pagans Healing Remembering 9/11, created by Selena Fox)
In shock and wonder we stared, unbelieving.
At the loss of our innocence.
At the loss of our pride.
But soon were we aware.
Of the greatest loss of all.
Your lives were this day taken.
Your light in this world shut off.
Your deaths a pain in our hearts.
We pray to you, who rule below.
We pray to you, who rule above.
We pray to you, who cross the lines.
Bring to these souls their deserved peace.
Bring to these souls this knowledge.
That never will they be forgotten.
Nor by those here maligned.
Bring to these souls their new name.
And our thanks and love this day.