Others can give you a more riveting account of that day. What they saw. What they felt. What they smelled.
Stories that are breath-taking and heartbreaking in the same sentence. Someone living out a surreal real-life action movie.
Nothing extraordinary happened to me that day – Sept. 11, 2001. I was just one of the millions of spectators. But as I cut through Union Square in Manhattan on my way to St. Vincent’s Hospital in Greenwich Village to give blood, I do recall one lightning bolt of a thought flash across my mind.
There is no way I’m bringing a child into this world.
I was 25, single, and under no threat of the ladies forming an ovulation line at my doorstep at any point in the near future. But the sentiment was there. Fuck this place and everyone in it. What’s the point of building anything – of trying – if the worst, most reckless impulses of this species can wipe it away in the blink of an eye.
And I’m not just talking about the terrorists. Shortly after 9/11, a store on my block covered their window with a huge sign that read “NUKE THEM ALL.” It was still there when I moved away nine months later. For all I know that sign is still there today. The person who put it up probably has a Cabinet position now. I could see where 21st century America was headed.
Twelve years later, my wife and I brought our first child into the world. So, what changed?
It’s human nature to be defiant. We’re hard wired for it. Here I am writing this and here you are reading it. We’re both products of millennia of defiance. Ancestors who faced famine, war, disease, persecution. People with less resources at their disposal than you or I. And yet they soldiered on. They held a tiny baby in their arms – your great-great-great-great-whatever – and made a bet that things would get better. Diseases would be cured, famines would pass, education be acquired, representative government truly attained. Maybe not in their lifetime, but sometime. Maybe even in a far off and distant land.
What can I say? I’m a product of people who took a chance that things will get better. So are you. So are we all.
I had the same thoughts on 11/9/16 that I did on 9/11/01. And I had more skin in the game to boot, with a wife and daughter. What made it worse, was that this time America did it to itself. I’ll be honest, if I see the wrong headline at the wrong time, I wonder if I did the right thing bringing life into the world. It’s easy for despair to get a toehold.
And yet, almost a year to the day later, we welcomed our son into the world.
Irish playwright Samuel Beckett once wrote, “I can’t go on. I’ll go on.” Is the damage done this century to our society, our environment, our world irreparable? I don’t have a crystal ball – but I’ve got two bets on the future that says it’s not.
Photo by Jason Greene