May 2, 2011

Justice on May 1, 2011

Last night, as this early riser struggled to stay awake long enough to see the Phillies beat the Mets... (no, they did not, but if the other team has to win once in a while, then it seems fitting a NY team would win last night)... the news of Osama Bin Laden's death broke into our bedroom here in southern Ohio and shocked me from near sleep. "At last...," I thought. As I closed my eyes to sleep a while later I knew I would call my son, Bryce, the next day to let him know. For Bryce, a special needs adult, was with me and my sister, Joan, in NYC on 9/11. We were to be in the World Trade Center that morning. We slept in. (Here is a blog post about that day.) And didn't this news bring in me, as I slept and as I woke and padded to the coffee maker, a flood of emotions and memories.

I think of: Laura Gilly, a flight attendant for 9 years who quite her job to work for Cantor Fitzgerald. she was only 32. And Louis Modafferi, the captain who led Staten Island's Rescue 5 and worked on a federal rescue team. And Andrew Golkin, 30. 750 people attended his memorial service. My heart remembers the names of Lisa Egan and Samantha Egan, sisters who worked at Cantor Fitzgerald and Patrick Sean Murphy, 36, who loved his family, basketball, and fishing. He had 2 children, Maggie, 2, and Sean, 4.

This morning, I must not think of my fear and worry that day, the way my mind imagined rushing down a crowded stairway pulling my slow-walking son behind me. I must remember Wendy Faulkner, a v.p. at Aon who lived in Mason, Ohio, and known for her generosity and caring. Her family established a nonprofit group to continue her legacy of helping children in the Third World. Margaret Quinn Orloske was a "born organizer" and "American History Buff." She traveled 2.5 hrs. each way to her job as v.p. at Marsh & McLennan. Her friend is quoted in the NYT as saying "No matter what she did, she did it well."

Please remember with me Stanley McCaskill, 47, who lived with his mother in the house he was born in. He checked in with her every day from his job as a security guide at 1 WTC. My heart aches for what she must have felt that day. Thomas E. Jurgens, 26, was "one of 3 court officers who disappeared while helping victims." Gayle Greene, 51, shared a family name with me; I wonder if we were related in any way. She loved Christmas decorations. She also worked in the WTC.

Marion Britton, Donald and Jean Peterson, Toshiya Kuge, and Edward Felt were among those killed on Flight 93. Mari-Rae Sopper, Ada Mason, Chortz Ghee, Eddie Dillard, and Lacey Ivory were among those killed at the Pentagon.

I want to say their names.

I know that children died, babies newborn and unborn died. Grandpas and new fathers, pregnant women and little girls. Average Americans and foreigners. Workers and retirees. Firefighters and police officers. Receptionists and vice presidents. Flight attendants, pilots, and teenagers. Young folks like my youngest son, so full of promise and just at the start of their wonderful lives.*

Nearly 3,000 people died that day or afterward as a direct result of the attacks on 9/11. (I am not counting the terrorists.) 1,461 U.S. troops have died in Afghanistan. 4,424 U.S. troops have died in Iraq.

Other wars have cost us the following:

294 U.S. troops died in the Gulf War.
58,245 U.S. Armed Forces died in the Vietnam War.
618,000 U.S. citizens died in the Civil War.
117,465 U.S. citizens died in World War One.
418,500 U.S. citizens died in World War Two.

For many years, I was a member of a Christian church that embraced pacifism. It is impossible for me to raise my fist and say "Yes!" at news of a death of a human being without feeling a twinge of guilt, followed by embarrassment that such a conflict exists in me; in some ways I feel weak. I want the confidence to be able, were the situation to arise, to shoot someone who kills or attempts to kill someone I love. I know I would be able to do it. I know I would never be the same afterward.

To those troops who found and killed Osama Bin Laden, I will do the most forthright thing I can this morning and say, "Thank you." Thank you for doing something I cannot do myself.

My hope for the future is that extremism in any form, in any religion, in any politics, will one day give way to cooperation and dialogue. We must have hope and ideals and things to strive for. But today, this morning, I'm glad to tell my son, who breathed the ashen air on September 11, 2001, that "the bad guy who planned the whole thing" is dead.
*Some information in this post was found in Portraits: 9/11/01, The Collected Portraits of Grief from the New York Times, (Times Books, Henry Holt and Company, New York, 2002). A few times a year I pull this book off a shelf and imagine my name, and my son's and sister's names there. And feel sorrow. And give thanks.


Cynthia Neale said...

Poignant and important remembrances to consider this morning. It has helped me process the news and so much better than cheering and celebrating. I am thankful but in a somber way.

Melissa Kline said...

Powerful post Janice. Very well done.

Janice Phelps Williams said...

Thank you, Cynthia and Melissa!

Anonymous said...

Love this post! xo Angie

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