As dawn surrendered to full luminous morning, I dreamed I saw photographs of my father’s body taken after a rifle-propelled grenade found him and a nineteen-year-old private first class in the Ho Bo Woods near Cu Chi, Vietnam. The images, even in the ethereal setting of a dream, rattled me. But I didn’t look away; I wanted to see them.
When I finally rolled out of bed and stumbled into my hallway, I wondered: why this dream; why now? Then I remembered the date.
Ten years ago today, I learned who I would call first when the world ends.
I made another call to friends visiting from France to suggest they stay inside. I wasn’t sure how some people would react to heavy accents that day.
At work, I watched everything unfold and collapse online and on a conference room television while a dear friend lay in a coma, her hospital room television likely on and looping the same scenes.
Ten years ago today, the smoke and smell didn’t make it to my sky, blue and empty and so quiet with no distraction from the endless news chatter and whisper-wind of nearly three thousand souls departed.
For almost ten years I’ve not watched the footage of that day. I’ve turned away from the images. I’ve changed the channel from documentaries. On anniversaries, I haven’t watched the videos posted in news stories.
Today, a decade later, on the anniversary of the personal apocalypses of mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, friends and lovers who had to say or pray goodbye to someone suddenly, I was delivered a reminder that sometimes we must look squarely and steadily at the consequences of the human capacity for hate and brutality. We must never look away completely from the images of war, death and destruction that have for so long, too long, stained the thread of human existence. We must keep our eyes open to the pain and loss that are everyday truths for so many in this world, that became a sudden reality for nearly three thousand souls on an early autumn day ten years ago.
When we look away, we forget. When we forget, nothing changes.
“It is my conviction that there is no way to peace – peace is the way.”
— Thich Nhat Hanh