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.
Megan Slack, 24, is the kind of friend most spend their whole life searching for and never find. During her childhood, Megan jumped from Illinois to Colorado to Arizona to Indiana. Today, this adventuresome and self-assured gal has settled into Portland, Oregon, where she’s pursuing a master’s degree in public administration and nonprofit management. Although unwed, Megan has been hitched to her beloved Jason for 4.5 years. She’s traveled through Europe, Australia, Mexico, Canada, Hong Kong and across the United States. Traveling – along with art, cooking, fitness, outdoor recreation and cozy slippers – put a smile on her face. Megan says she has no title for her spiritual beliefs, but prays to a higher being. She was at home when terrorists struck America. Her words came the following week.
I remember waking up Tuesday morning, stumbling through my coffee-making ritual, and hearing Jason say, “My God, we are about to experience a war.” I was a little confused, considering he never watches TV in the morning, let alone that he had not yet left for work. I approached the TV and saw the “Special Report.” At first, it seemed extremely surreal. Plane hijackers had destroyed the World Trade Center and both buildings had collapsed. As I watched the air in Manhattan fill with smoke, all I could think was “Ghostbusters.” It reminded me of a movie, something I had seen before, something Hollywood. However, as I continued watching, reality struck. This was real, not Hollywood.
All at once my stomach was ill and my heart was heavy as I physiologically responded to the enormity of the situation. It was all I could do to just gaze at the television and try to register what had happened. My first emotional reaction was shock, then sadness as tears ran down my face. All I could imagine were the innocent mothers, fathers, children, friends, leaders, educators, etc., who had been succumbed to such hate. I imagined the fear that must have encompassed each individual as his or her life was involuntarily submitted to hands of hatred.
Fear was a theme that continued to cross my mind as I mourned the loss of all the individuals on the planes and in the buildings. As adults, we rarely experience the type of fear we experienced as youth. I remember having nightmares as a child of burglars and murderers and running from evil, my screams muted. I no longer have these nightmares; however, those individuals experienced the nightmare. Imagine the fear they encountered as they realized they had no control over their lives. Evil had muted their voices and gave them no opportunity to escape or wake up.
This image is what really shook me as I admired the courageous, innocent individuals who were sacrificed. As a youth, I was able to wake up from my nightmares and feel grateful to be alive. I pray those brave individuals can now rest in peace, escaped from the evilness and wake up in a place full of all-encompassing love and compassion. I hold those individuals very close to my heart. Though what they experienced was full of hate, I pray that as a result, as a nation, everyone of us will wake up each day and take a moment to appreciate our lives and to embrace the loved ones who fill our hearts with joy.
I continue to feel sadness, but I have also begun to feel anger and frustration. I kept thinking, “What kind of person would do such a thing?” As I was exploring that thought the other day, my Mom called me. For 45 minutes, my Mom explained to me in a rage how President Bush was behind the whole thing. At first, she sounded very convincing, but as I thought about it, I realized he’s dumb, but maybe not that dumb. I found it interesting how each person has reacted, though. My Mom, a therapist, is outraged and thinks the government is behind it all. My Dad is trying to fit into his uniform from Vietnam, 40 pounds later. My sister wants to see Osama bin Laden’s pubic hairs plucked out publicly one by one. We all have different perspectives and reactions. When it comes down to it, we are all in this together.
For the first time in my life, I feel that I need to be patriotic and represent the U.S.A. Though I have a lot of fear for the way Bush will handle it, I feel that no matter what, we are all in this together. Despite every individual’s reaction, it is crucial that we remain a nation strong. A week later, we have begun to move past the mourning stage and on to new emotions. I pray, though, that the compassion and unity I have felt in the past week continue far into the future. We can use this as a learning experience and rethink our roles in life and things we, as individuals, need to work on in order to feel compassion with each day.
As I pet my precious cat, Carmen, sitting next to me, I feel total love. I feel love for my cats, my partner, my soul sista Jenny, my family, my friends, and most importantly, the fact that I am alive. With each day I seek to breathe in compassion and love for my surroundings and pray for a world of peace. Love and peace to all.