When I was 12 years old I already considered myself “grown up”. I saw my parents divorce unfolding and stood alone facing the harsh realities of the real world. Or so I thought. In September I saw footage of the first tower getting hit right before I left for school. When I arrived everyone was talking about it but the school had told all the teachers that they were not to turn on the TV’s at all. Mrs. Fitz, my Spanish teacher disobeyed that order and my class watched in stunned silence as we saw the 2nd’ plane hit, shocked when we saw the Pentagon, and paralyzed by fear when the towers fell.
That moment our entire world changed. An era of post-cold war became an era of orange threat levels. Thomas Friedman has remarked that America as Puff the Magic Dragon (of trade) became Godzilla (of war). And I truly grew up even though I didn’t realize it until last night. I was terrified when I heard about the bombing in Afghanistan that October and when I heard about the attacks on 7/7 in the UK underground, but by the time the Madrid train bombing, Mumbai hotel bombing, the shoe bomber, underwear bomber, et al. had happened I was numb to the fear. This simply was the world we lived in.
Rather than fear these things I took steps to be prepared against possible attack (I still have an anti-hijacking plan in my head just in case) but one thing always struck fear in my and, like a dense layer of smog was always there. Osama Bin Laden. Not until last night when I rushed down to the White House, swung from the gates on Pennsylvania Avenue, and chanted with my fellow human beings did I realize what an oppressive layer of fear he had created. Like coming up out of the fog, I can truly see how expansive it was. My fear has been lessened and I feel a sense of relief.
Last night I donned my Superman T-shirt and joined with my brothers and sisters almost all around my age who had been too young to be mad about 9/11 and could only be fearful. We rejoiced in the streets because collectively we all felt this relief. It didn’t matter what ideology you came from last night you were relieved. I saw signs for Bush/Chenny, Hillary, McCain/Palin, flags from America, Palestine, Israel, Egypt, and “Don’t Tread on Me”, people from every corner of the world. I saw the men carrying the Israeli and Palestinian flags embrace at the collective joy we all felt.
Until this point in my life I could never truly understand the joy of V-day but last night I think I tasted a glimpse. Pure unadulterated joy.