When I went to sleep last night, all was good in my little world. The Astros were ahead by several games in the National League Central; the Texas Longhorns were 2-0 and primed to make a run at the NCAA Championship; one of my best friends (and niece) was preparing to leave for college, ready to embark on a new chapter in her life; my dad was about to celebrate another birthday; my family was about to celebrate the Jewish New Year; I even had jotted down some notes for what I believed would become a very timely and humorous (at my own expense, of course) September issue of “FWIW.” I was eager to get a good night sleep and looked forward to facing another day. Yet, for some reason my alarm has yet to go off to indicate the arrival of the next morning and I can’t seem to wake up from what is undoubtedly the worst nightmare I have ever had.
In my dream, the world as we know it, my little world, has changed forever. Everything seems so real; even when I pinch myself, I can’t wake up. In my dream, terror reigns throughout our great land. The symbol of our economic and financial strength has been destroyed; the symbol of our military might has been damaged. There is now a massive void in the most magnificent skyline of the most magnificent city that symbolizes freedom and democracy and all that is good in the greatest country in the world. And thousands of innocent victims are injured or worse yet, “missing.” Though I did not know them personally, I feel like I knew them all They were our parents and our children, our bosses and our co-workers, our neighbors and our friends. The scenes that are present in my dream seem more like those in a Hollywood blockbuster. Only the audience in my dream is not sitting atop a stadium seating theater, eating popcorn, and awaiting the credits. In fact, everyone in the audience is a victim; everyone has been violated.
In my dream, I contacted people I knew who were close to the location of the tragedy. I placed phone calls and sent emails to make sure everyone was all right. But, while they were all alive and seemingly safe for the moment, no one was really all right. I could hear in their voices and read in the words of their return emails that the sights I had been watching on TV did not do justice to the true devastation. Though I was grieving in my dream from a distance, my friends were suffering a far more personal experience that I can only imagine.
THE LIFE CYCLE OF EMOTIONS
Throughout my dream, I have run the full gamut of emotions: Denial – there is no way this is real. Anger – we need to take immediate revenge on the perpetrators. Fear – what other dastardly acts are going to follow? Bargaining – please let everything turn out to be OK. Acceptance – the world as we know it will never be the same. Actually, I don’t think I’ve managed “acceptance” yet. I’ve shed many tears during my dream. I cried when I watched the unbelievable scenes on TV over and over again; I cried when I heard the stories of the victims; I cried when I saw the first plane in days fly over my head; I cried when they rang the bell at the New York Stock Exchange. Sometimes, I’ve cried for no apparent reason at all. But in my dream, I am not crying alone.
PEOPLE WHO NEED PEOPLE
Lots of heroes emerged in my dream. These are not my normal heroes of the sports world who wear uniforms and play point guard, shortstop, or quarterback. These heroes wear far different uniforms representing the fire department, the police department, and the military. Many of the people were the heroes of my youth and now they are the heroes of the present. In my dream, these heroes don’t work for those multi-million dollar contracts that are so often expected by all of us after having a good year. Instead, they have a far greater calling than the almighty buck. They risk their lives to save lives. They risk their lives to ensure that our lives are more secure. They risk their lives to protect our country. And the satisfaction of a job well done, the pat on the back from a co-worker, the knowledge that they are making a real difference is often just compensation for these heroes in my dream. In my dream, everyday people have also emerged as heroes. People who put their lives on hold to volunteer time and services to help out; people who donated blood and/or money to aid in the cause; people who passed along a comforting word to a suffering friend.
In my dream, I was often lost and unsure of what to do. I could not seem to pull myself away from the television coverage and yet I was starved for people to be with and share my thoughts and emotions of the tragedy. I found myself in synagogue on Friday evening because it simply seemed like to right place to be. Obviously, I was not the only one with that thought as the sanctuary was standing room only. In my dream, we listened to the moving words of our spiritual leaders trying to offer explanations for the week’s events. But there were no explanations that made any sense and even the Rabbis acknowledged as much.
We listened as babies cried during the service but rather than get irritated with their parents for not taking them outside, we actually dwelled on the sounds of their voices as they represented life and the very emotions that each of us was feeling. In my dream, the service concluded as we said a collective prayer of mourning in memory of those who perished. And then, we put our arms around those seated beside us and sang “God Bless America.” In my dream, I cried again but felt no embarrassment because I shared those tears with everyone present.
TIME TO WAKE UP
I am so ready to once again enjoy watching the Astros make their run toward the pennant. I can’t wait for the next Longhorn game so I can root for my team. I am excited about helping my niece pack and seeing her off on her adventure to college. I want to celebrate my dad’s birthday and the New Year with my family and friends. I am ready to start writing that funny “FWIW” newsletter to send to those on my mailing list. I just wish I could move on and wake up from this terrible dream. And yet, I can’t. Sadly, I now realize that the world, my little world, will never be the same.