Three years ago’s today was a Tuesday. It was a typical Bay Area sunny day. I woke up around 8:45am, two hours after mom had left for work. I didn’t find anything unusual. The house was quiet. I did the normal routine of letting the dog in the garage after I backed my car out to the drive way. I listened to classical music station, it was Mozart, I think. Half way through my morning commute, I switched to pop music. DJs of that Pop station were yapping away. I was absent-minded, half listening, half day dreaming. Then I heard the DJs talking about every airport in the country were shut down. That snapped me back to reality, “Is this some kind of a joke?” I listened more intently. No, they didn’t sound like joking. But they weren’t making much sense either. I started switching stations like mad, something bad had happened in New York City. But every news caster or DJs were so preoccupied with emotion that no one bothered to reiterate what had happened. I felt my stomach sink. Something really bad had happened. But what? As I was switching from one chaotic voice to the next, I heard mayor Giuliani, whose voice was so solid and real that I immediately latched on. He said, “The lower Manhattan looks like a war zone…like London during WWII.” My tears poured out.
I cried all the way to work, as I listened to the live interview with Giuliani on NPR. I managed to get some idea what had happened.
During the following days, I was teary eyed often. It was a typical emotional cycle most of us had experienced, going from sad, to despair, to anger, and then to puzzlement. I remembered the previous Sunday I was in Opera in the Park with Gui and M. I remembered everyone stood up singing the US anthem. I remembered the weekend before that, we were on the peaceful Nacimiento road in Big Sur, being the only car on that road driving past a military base, where a military exercise drill was in full swing. I remembered the first weekend following, we went to see an art show at Stanford University Gallery. I walked past the canvas after canvas on the wall and was thinking to myself, “What is the use? What is the use?” What really is the use of art? If the hijackers had grown up with beautiful arts such as these, would they become something else? Something brighter? But then I thought of Germany, which has produced so many musicians and artists, yet there were the Nazis. The world is such a dark place.
I started reading everything I can find on Osama bin Laden, on US foreign policy, on Pakistan, on Afghanistan.
It was weeks before I remembered that moment when I woke up on that Tuesday morning. The quietness in the house, and the ordinariness seemed like such a luxury. Mom knew what had happened when she got up at 5:30am, she knew the magnitude of the tragedy, she knew the world we had inherited was thoroughly changed, yet she didn’t wake me up to tell me. She let me sleep, and let the innocence of our past prevailed two more hours, for me.
Thank you, Mom.