Monday, May 2, 2011

Finding My Way

I have felt sick to my stomach for most of the day. I learned of Osama Bin Laden's death upon wakening and immediately saw Americans rejoicing--in the streets near Ground Zero and in the virtual world of Facebook. I well understood the sense of relief that we'd eliminated a face of great evil and I noted the support for the American soldier, but at the risk of sounding unpatriotic, I felt immediate nausea.

I do remember where I was when the twin towers were hit. I was in my classroom. A former student, who was then a senior, came into my room and said, "Mrs. W. A plane just struck the twin towers. We're being attacked!". Justin then saw my look of disbelief and said, "I'm not kidding around. Let me go get you a television". He rolled one into my classroom and we immediately began watching the news footage together. We'd later hear of more tragedy as the day unfolded.

I remember seeing the horrific images on the news and on every channel for days afterward until I finally turned off the television after having grown so numb and deeply disturbed by how everyone was weighing in, even celebrities. When I saw entertainment magazine shows devote their broadcasts to the tragedy, I felt sick and vowed never to watch those shows or any other celebrity function ever again. I made good on that vow for a number of years and although I did start following celebrity stories eventually, I still cannot watch or read them for very long.

I'd make three trips to New York City in the following years and I'd visit Ground Zero and the Little Church that Stood across the way with each of my children. I began donating money to my local fire station too.

I rode into work today and heard more chatter about the killing of Bin Laden. Radio hosts invited people to weigh in and conspiracy theorists raised their concerns which were later echoing in my classroom of teenagers. I found myself scrambling to find something to bring sense to how I was feeling. That's when I found myself turning to Ted Talks. "TED brings together the world's most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes or less)" ( That's when I found Ric Elias talking about three things he learned as his plane, Flight 1549, was going to crash-land in the Hudson River in New York back in 2009 after the plane hit some geese. (Thanks to the heroic pilot, all passengers were saved in that scary flight). Mr. Elias learned not to ever save good wine. He learned never to hold onto resentment in relationships, and he learned the most important thing he could ever do in this world is to be a good father. Listening to Mr. Elias helped me a bit today and sharing his talk with my last period class felt right too.

Upon my return home I was hit with more talk and more posts. I tried watching a comedic sitcom on tv to escape but it wasn't until I found the words of Father Lombardi, the Vatican's spokesman that I began to breathe more easily. Father Lombardi said, "Osama bin Laden, as we all know, bore the most serious responsibility for spreading divisions and hatred among populations, causing the deaths of innumerable people, and manipulating religions for this purpose. In the face of a man’s death, a Christian never rejoices, but reflects on the serious responsibilities of each person before God and before men, and hopes and works so that every event may be the occasion for the further growth of peace and not of hatred".

I am circling my world today not knowing where I am or why it is exactly that I feel ill. I am trying to help myself by turning to the words of those who have gone through something traumatic and have found purpose. I am remembering the weekend's sermon at St. Joe's about forgiveness and yet that is making me dizzy too. But it seems more sensible and right to be furthering and spreading ideas of peace rather than hatred. I want to acknowledge the lives of the innocents, all over the world, lost in the face of evil, and with all due respect to those who choose to do so in their own ways, I must do so in prayer.

Like Mr. Elias, I don't need another tragedy, national or personal, to know not to save the good wine and not to hang onto resentment in relationships I want in my life. The most important thing I could ever do in this world is to be a good Mom. So please understand, that for me, to take any other stance on today's news would not be true to this Mom's beliefs.

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