I didn’t intend to write this piece, but my heavy heart guides my typing fingers. New York City, close to where I grew up in Long Island, home still to members of my family, has once again been attacked by terrorism. Like many of you, I watched in horror as first one plane, then another flew into the twin towers on 9/11. A coworker had called me into the front office to show the news coverage of what appeared to be a horrible plane crash into one of the world’s biggest buildings. No one mentioned terrorism. Then, to our shock and horror, a second plane cruised into the camera frame and smashed into the other building. I remember staring blankly, unable to fully grasp what had just happened. When another plane struck the Pentagon, I asked out loud, are we under attack? I thought another country had declared war on us.
That was my frame of reference in 2001. War or a tragic accident. I’d heard of terrorist attacks, but they occurred in foreign countries, where religious differences among people living in proximity boiled into hate-fueled violence. But in America? A country founded by people who fled religious persecution to practice freely and peacefully… such an important value to our ground-breaking democracy that our founding fathers guaranteed us religious freedom… how could that happen here? As the day wore on, with personal tragedies unfolding for me and my family when we learned we’d lost two members, I remembered thinking our nation would never be the same. Other than Pearl Harbor, we’d never had such an attack on U.S. soil. That feeling of safety was gone to us forever.
Now, whenever I hear of an attack on civilians, my first thought is terrorism. That’s become the new normal. It saddens me that some now seem a bit hardened to violence, our innocence gone, our indignation, too, possibly as a story lasts one news cycle before moving on to the next story. Nearly fifty people died at the hands of a mad man in Las Vegas, yet it's rarely mentioned anymore. Now eight people bicycling from work have lost their lives. All innocent civilians whose lives were cut short by hate. How long will we talk about this attack? Five days... a week... is my best guess before something else catches the media’s attention. Are we now immune to being shocked and horrified as we were on 911? I just saw one journalist joke around with another, saying he liked his “Newscaster Costume” as they are on air in NYC covering a fatal attack that occurred just hours ago. Maybe I’m the odd one out whose bruise from 911 never healed. Every act of violence presses on that bruise and I hurt. I won’t get used to this new normal. I hope we never do. To accept violence is to accept hate and I reject it in every form.