A year ago I heard about the terrorist attack as I stood in the Isle Royale ranger station. I had just hiked 10 miles that morning through some of the most beautiful wilderness in North America simultaneously while planes were ramming into skyscrapers. Without the benefit of live TV or radio coverage for most of that fateful day, images I had of the suicide attacks seemed like a horrific nightmare or surely someone‘s idea of a bad joke.
Sitting on the shore of Lake Superior for hour upon hour, I could only hope my grounded puddle-jumper would materialize after the FAA came to their senses and realized there were no terrorists on Isle Royale. Only a few hikers remained on the island and we all were anxious to return home in order to learn more details of the attack. Being cut off from mass communications at a time like this was nerve-wracking but turned out to be blessing in disguise. I was alone with my own thoughts: who could commit such an evil act? Was this the blow that would trigger World War III? I remember praying for the world.
Of course, one year later, the images of smoldering buildings, planes slicing into the World Trade Center, and people running for their lives have been played over and over by the media. The disturbing scenes have become etched in our collective memory forever. If I am forced to listen to Rudy Giuliani drone on one more time about how courageous New Yorkers are (of course, he is right), I will scream.
The one-year anniversary of the most infamous terrorist act in history falls this week. Some will stay glued to the tube, crying, as they watch those buildings collapse for the umpteenth time. Other enraged Americans will discuss bloody revenge against al-Qaeda, Iraq, and whoever seems remotely responsible. Some will shrink with fear from flying commercial flights, entering skyscrapers, or even leaving their home.
As for me - I can‘t imagine watching TV on that day. What can be said or reported by the media that is new? Who could they interview that we haven‘t heard recently? Only Osama bin Laden, himself.
Everyone will handle the anniversary in his or her own way. My inclination is to go back to my isolated island and focus on the beauty in this world. Somehow that, too, seems cowardly - running away while our nation is struggling to come to grips with an invisible enemy.
Remember how tolerant of others and how unified we all felt in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy? George W. Bush had a 110% approval rating. Americans traveled from thousands of miles away to volunteer at ground zero. Democrats held hands with Republicans. Firefighters were finally recognized as the heroes they always have been. Even Fidel Castro condemned the terrorist attacks against America.
The War on Terrorism declared by our government will take many years and work on several different levels. For me, September 11th is a reminder that my energy is best spent working to remove hostility in my own small world rather than focusing on rounding up enemies.
What better way to commemorate the anniversary of 9/11 than to tell your significant other that he or she is loved? Call a friend or family member with whom you have not spoken in a while and say that you care. Perform a random act of kindness for someone in need. Kiss your children. Pet your dog or cat vigorously. Give yourself a big pat on the back.
We will never forget the horror of September 11th, but these are also times that we could learn to love more and hate less.