9/11—The Day Everything Changed?

Not really

Make no mistake. That was the day everything changed, irrevocably and completely for my friends Cindy and Nancy, both of whom lost sons named David in the collapse of the World Trade Center, one in the North and one in the South Building. It was changed for them and for their siblings, wife and children and the families of all who lost loved ones in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

That’s not the point.

Long memories are great teachers. The first day “everything changed” for me was December 7, 1941. That was the day a far off war I had asked my father about became close and real to me. Two years earlier I had seen on the front page of the newspaper a picture of a little Chinese boy about two years old, alone, crying on the steps of some public building. I asked where his mother was. My Dad assured me that what happened to the boy was caused by a war far away that couldn’t touch me. On that December day, it reached me like a blow to the solar plexus.

Another one of those days was when I picked up the newspaper again to see the stories about the opening of the Death Camps in Germany. Three and a half months later there was the Atomic Bomb. Again, a day it was said, “everything changed.”

More personally, there was the Friday in November when my husband and I stood in Neiman Marcus store, having just watched the President and his motorcade on Commerce Street in Dallas and heard the wail of every emergency vehicle in the city. Our life did indeed change that day. We both renewed our dedication to working for justice, especially in the Civil Rights movement.

Not much else changed at all during all these events.

That is not to say great progress and a few victories have not been achieved in the intervening years. One thing that did change was my unquestioning belief that mankind was perfectible and that there was something to “every day in every way we get better and better.”

I distinctly remember the day I changed. I was driving down Western Avenue, coming from an election campaign headquarters when the thought struck me that our capacity for good was growing right along with our capacity for evil. I don’t believe “the bastards are still gaining on us.” We’re just in a race neither of us can win. As Walter Cronkite use to say, “That’s the way it is.”

Everything change? Nothing, really.