The Day of New Fear

am an artist. On September 11, 2001 I was setting up a new loft studio in Chicago. I did not yet have a phone, TV, or radio. Suddenly, there was a loud knocking on my door. Upon opening the door I was surprised to see my daughter, Clarisa, who was quite agitated. “Did you hear the news?”, she loudly asked. I replied that I was without any outside communication and I asked her why she was not at her job. She worked at Chicago’s Merchandise Mart. She then hurriedly told me that two planes had crashed into the World Trade buildings in New York and another plane had hit the Pentagon and she couldn’t reach Sarah, my daughter, her sister. Sarah worked at the Navy Research Laboratory as a research physicist, just a short distance downriver (the Potomac) from the Pentagon.

She often went to meetings at the Pentagon. We called her again and again but could not connect. We then rushed to my wife’s location. She worked as a nurse in a health care center. Driving the few miles to her we listened to my car radio. The news was fragmented, unclear. But we realized that America was being attacked. I said this is World War Three! We believed that Chicago would be attacked any minute! When we reached my wife, Kathy, we hugged and cried, so worried about Sarah and frightened about what might happen next.

we finally learned late that evening, Sarah had actually seen the second plane hit the NY trade Center Tower! Shocked, she and her colleagues didn’t fully comprehend what was going on other than an obvious attack on America. Shortly afterwards, she looked out her office window and saw black smoke rising from the Pentagon. Someone said another plane was headed toward the White House. Could the Navy Research Laboratory also be a target? Then came the order to evacuate. Everyone was told to go home! Traffic and confusion greatly complicated any travel in the D.C. area. Sarah arrived at her Silver Spring home after several hours and we all reunited by phone.

Then began the realization of extraordinary horror and random street attacks on any people who looked like near eastern “terrorists”. America was awakened to real fear. It remains. The 9-11 terrorist attacks brought horror to America and has exaggerated a kind of social panic that causes citizens to distrust each other, to hate each other, to fear truth and to lose hope. The destroyed buildings have been replaced, the Pentagon restored, the victims honored in great sorrow. But the damage to the American spirit and its optimism is very great and that must be rebuilt, too.

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