Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Unbearable Lightness of Being...

Today is the day we are told to: "Never Forget."  It was a year ago today, during a cross country road trip, that I became immersed in the attempt at unlocking the secrets of the universe, and so happened to stumble upon Arlington National Cemetery.  At the time, I was detached from all things media and didn't even realize what day it was; hence, showing up at our nation's cemetery in a t-shirt, jeans and messy pony tail.  The circumstances of September 11, 2012, much like in 2001, brought me to my knees yet again over a decade later.
It happened while walking among the headstones.  A black Cadillac with tinted windows approached me slowly from behind and a man in a suit wearing an earpiece - like an agent out of The Matrix - rolled down his window and beckoned me to come over.  My aimless stroll turned to an uneasy walk of worry as I contemplated his reasons for needing to talk to me.  In a low, hushed voice he told me to walk to Section 60 and to do so quickly.  Surprised by his orders, my face must have shown how confused I was, to which he responded with a wink, "You won't be disappointed."

 While making my way to Section 60 I noticed it was eerily void of visitors, except for a well dressed man placing flowers on a grave.  Hurriedly walking, I ran through various scenarios as to what lay before me.  Reaching the destination I was confronted by yet another secret service type in full S.W.A.T gear in front of a black SUV bearing an official government seal.  I became nervous as I approached him and several other armed men. I asked if this was Section 60.  He replied, "Why?" and I repeated what the previous security man told me.  The extremely muscular man shook his head frustratedly, "He wasn't supposed to say anything to anyone."  He took a long hard look into my eyes, and, after what seemed like an eternity, he pat me down, searched my purse and allowed me to pass.  The barrage of the morning's exciting events left me after entering Section 60.  Utter stillness surrounded me and I felt a sense of aloneness I had not felt prior.  I was alone among thousands of white stones; thousands upon thousands of names and numbers etched with a permanence that only death comprehends.
All at once the immensity of the moment consumed me.  The date of births earlier than my own and  names that once were merely letters on stone now had an identity.  Right or wrong, they did what they were told, believing freedom came at an expense; their lives, as if sending people to their death is freedom.  Question after question consumed me and I felt sick.  In my youth, I had bought into the drama and hype of war much like these men and women had and I now hated myself.  I hated myself for the apathetic way I once looked at war, not realizing the true cost.  I was ripped away from this line of thinking, however, because the President of the United States drove right by me.

The secret tip from the agent earlier in the morning revealed itself as I was sternly told by the secret service to, "Get back!" as he passed.  To see the President in Arlington on 9/11, however surreal and exciting it may have been, was lost on me as I felt the sadness rising up through the graves I was standing on.

Life and its tender fragility revealed itself that day in Section 60.  Section 60 also taught me that trading human lives for freedom is a lie, and is based wholly on greed, power and ego and not for the betterment of our country's interest.  It taught me that violence and/or war is outdated and has no place in this world which we, a now global community, reside.  I learned that sacrificing life for a cause is still sacrificing life, no matter the cause.  If we learned anything from September 11th, and from the loss of life and our freedoms since that time, it's that: "An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind."