***Special Feature for September 2011***
Ten years. 10 years. An anniversary nobody wants to celebrate, but remember we will. Sitting, standing, driving – living – we will recall the moment we learned the horror of Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001.
Myself? I was driving past our town’s little airport where three of the four terrorist pilots took flying lessons. Three of the four.
North Tower. South Tower. Pennsylvania field.
The hijackers’ names don’t deserve mention.
Their victims? They deserved junk mail, tacky holiday gifts, losing keys, getting caught in warm rain, smiling at babies, dancing, paying for hot dogs at ball games, ice cream that melts into yellow birthday cake – years and years of the ordinary stuff. Of just being.
Those small teaching planes took off blocks from my home and buzzed over our heads while children built forts out of cotton quilts in front yards. Hijackers learned to turn correct knobs and levers - while we strolled underneath through parking lots and post offices and purchased stamps and chicken and toilet paper.
I like our city’s north bridge. When I pass by at night, I look for the glow of the television inside the bridge tender’s tiny tower. I wonder what he’s watching. From the north bridge, you can also see the towering toothpick palm trees that line our shopping district. During high winds, the palms toss their olive green shaggy tops like rock stars.
The south bridge, just a couple miles from the north bridge, is plainer and overlooks the small airfield. The United States government constructed the airport in the 1940’s as a military flight training facility. To train World War II pilots.
Just to be clear.
Did you know our city’s logo features a seagull with large white wings silhouetted against an orange fireball? Ironic, now.
Year round, locals and visitors gather on sand or docks to watch the sunset. The tradition is to applaud the moment the sun disappears. Watch for the green flash. Some folks raise cheap plastic cups to the sky to toast the day and the blessings in their lives.
I wonder if evil ever stood on our piers at sunset. I wonder if one of us turned to him and made small talk.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?”
It used to be pleasant to look at the airfield, especially at night, when red and green lights outline the path for pilots to safely land their planes. But it was hard to look those gray runways. For a long time.
I only glance that way now if there’s a perfect salmon sunset over the water, just beyond the end of Runway Two. Lacy-tailed clouds that remind me of hope.
I’ll look as I cross the south bridge, and - if I’m not too preoccupied - I’ll say a prayer for those who were lost, the survivors, families and friends. For everyone who still hurts.
The prayer varies. It’s personal. But it usually includes an ending about light always outshining darkness.
And sometimes, I just whisper “I’m so sorry” and look straight ahead.
Kerri K. Dieffenwierth
416 Valencia Road
Venice, FL 34285