Editor’s Note: The words and artwork below were created in 2001 and appear 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, including Sarah Heames. Her author’s bio was written in 2002 and has not been updated.
The spirited and talented Sarah Marie Heames, 24, lives in Portland, Oregon, where she’s pursuing work in the hospitality and tourism industry after recently leaving her position with a quaint, family-owned Italian restaurant. Sarah was born in Norfolk, Virginia, but grew up in the desert town of Sierra Vista, Arizona. She and her seven brothers were raised Catholic by their two wonderful parents. Today, however, she’s exploring spirituality in a broader sense. Her passions include dancing, getting crafty and traveling. She’s visited Ireland and Italy, but one of her most poignant memories is of a 550-mile pilgrimage across northern Spain. Sarah describes herself as a “seeker of social justice in subtle and persistent ways.” As she says, “All things happen for reasons. May we keep our eyes open to see, our ears cleaned to hear, our arms stretched to embrace, our nose ever keen, our tastes ever hungry for the lessons that present themselves everyday.” Sarah was curled up in bed when terrorists struck America. Her mother woke her up to tell her we were at war. She started pouring out the words Sept. 21.
September 21, 2001
Through the window of the café I could see the line of people patiently awaiting their entrance to Elmer’s Flag Shop. They are on a quest for patriotic paraphernalia as a means to reach some form of comfort and to hopefully unite themselves with fellow Americans. Inside the café, close friends, my mother and the buzz of Friday lunch dwellers surrounded me. Today is a different day; it’s my birthday. I realize that life must go on. We each have our own reactions, our own fears, our own saddened hearts, but the reality of this tragedy is that our life must continue to move forward.
And so we celebrated life. Gifts were shared, conversation was genuine, reminiscing of memories, making future plans – laughter was common. Sadness was scarce. Yet, the TV headlines remained. The viewers sat still, in silence, no fidgeting. Shock ruled the moment. But the cooks continued to fire orders, servers continued to refill lemonades and hot teas. My birthday continued to have a full 24 hours in its day.
The bills came today. The same balances were seen last month. I’m not getting ahead, just making the minimum. Am I ever going to get these paid? My energy was beginning to dwindle so I set out for a jog around the neighborhood lake. Ducks were swimming with their ever-growing families. Mothers were at the swings with their babies and toddlers. Again, laughter was common. Some little boy was fishing off the rocky shore as an old weathered man limped behind him, slowly making his way around the path. Life was just as ordinary as any day prior, except for the jet planes patrolling the skies above. Ducks still need to be fed; the children still want to play. Fish are still swimming and the old guy still needs his exercise.
I was late to work.
September 22, 2001
Saturday morning brought a new awareness. As I staffed the information booth at the Farmer’s Market, I noticed the drop in Middle Eastern customers. One of our honey vendors brought to my attention that most of his clientele are Middle Eastern and his business has dropped since the 9-11 tragedy. How sad I became. Quickly I noticed how I was looking at people. If they were Arabic looking, I stared a little longer, trying to sense an emotion, identify with their injustice. Why all of a sudden this heightened curiosity of an ethnicity whom I never seemed to double take before? I am affected, influenced by the chaos.
I sat in wonderment for the remainder of the shift, questioning my historical facts. What became clear was I know very little of foreign policies, yet alone the extremist groups, religious practices and cultural norms of many countries beyond the US. How limited I am in current issues. The 9-11 devastations have proven to be an educational series of seminars. Why seminars? Because each day brings forth lengthy, extensive coverage of various specialized information. Despite my limited interest in historical perspectives, I am being forced to learn about the intense facts and fictions that birthed this multifaceted terrorist devastation. While I digest these seminars, I am also silently singing with joy. Joy for the mere hope I receive as I witness the compassionate hearts that have united across this country.
Life presents itself. Let it unfold, trust that what happens now will be for the betterment of humankind. I must remind myself of this daily. It’s easy to become wrapped within our very own reality. Our walls of ignorance seem to thicken each day. The more we harden our hearts, the more we disconnect ourselves from the human spirit, including our own. May we all learn from this tragedy. May the effects stain our memory, enabling us to grow through the pain and sorrow to achieve some sense of inner peace.
September 30, 2001
This evening I find it difficult to replay the image in my head. To visualize the planes crashing, the hysterical families, co-workers, neighbors, aunts and uncles, the cries for the innocent dead. Gone. No more touch of the loved ones, only wonderment of their whereabouts. These gut-wrenching scenarios have numbed my whole being. I have continued in my routine of work and play, lunch dates and happy hours for martinis. Am I running from the harsh, changing reality? No, I am realizing that life must carry on no matter what direct or indirect influence the 9-11 attack has on you. I will embrace each day as if it were the last. Truly, we never do know.