Editor’s Note: The essay below was written in 2001 and appears in the self-published book, Through Our Eyes: A Tapestry of Words and Images in Response to September 11. Printed and distributed in 2002, the book was the result of an independent, volunteer documentary project organized by a journalist and several friends. The author’s bio was written in 2002 and has not been updated.
Lea Jane Parker, 53, treads lightly on the earth, and she inspires everyone around her to do the same. This gentle-spirited woman was born in Moline, Illinois, and grew up in Cambridge, Illinois. Today, she lives with her husband in Flagstaff, Arizona, where she teaches at Northern Arizona University. She has two daughters. Lea was at home on the morning of Sept. 11. Her essay, titled “No Words for 9/11/01,” came shortly after.
I am a writer, but for once, I have no words. I have no words to describe the horror, shock, terror, destruction, devastation, despair, evil, anguish, sorrow, for what words can explain the deaths of more than 6,000 people in a few moments of terrorist rampage? Multiply 6,000 by the number of family and friends who mourn these deaths, and multiply this by the number of citizens across the country who feel their pain and grief, and the sense of loss becomes exponential. What words can console those who mourn?
Some are asking – where is God in this tragedy? If human beings are the “children” of God, then God must be likened to a “parent.” We must remember that a parent does not always have control when their children stray, when their children do wrong. Maybe God can’t control every action of every individual. Is there a “devil” and if so, is this evil force controlling those who would take lives? I reach back into my Christian upbringing for answers, but there are none. Certainly, forces of good and evil have battled since the beginning of humans’ interpretation of the world. And the battle never seems to end.
Who are we humans that we must always do battle – battle for world peace? What is the purpose for opposites like battle and peace? Peace-War; Love-Hate; Friend-Enemy; Justice-Injustice; Forgiveness-Revenge. These are words representing feelings and concepts. But, how would we know one if not for the other?
Who are we anyway? What does it mean to be a human being? What kind of mind invents concepts of hatred, enemies, war, and weapons of mass destruction?
In a century’s time, we, as a human race, have invented rockets and airplanes, nuclear weapons and automobiles, radio and television, and a million gadgets that run on electricity of exhaustible fuels, not to mention a million products we don’t really need. We’ve covered our lands with concrete and injected poisons into the same air we breathe and the same water we drink. Are we the enemy within ourselves? Instead of kill or be killed, why can’t we love and be loved?
Why does someone hate Americans enough – innocent Americans not even personally known – to take his own life to take theirs – to violate the most basic biological law of survival? What kind of value system instills such radical thinking?
I am a writer, but I have no words for explanation, and I have no answers. I only have questions and these unorganized random thoughts. I have no suggestions except to explore our hearts and search for solutions for peace for all people.