I never went to war, never served "point," never had to crawl through the jungle or the sand avoiding bullets shot by faceless enemies. Still, there's a little piece of me that feels as though I have been in a war of sorts. I feel this way when I turn on the news and see another explosion, another street full of smoke and tears.
On September 11, 2001, I watched the towers burn from my office window. I remember feeling shocked and overwhelmed. Stunned. Horrified. There are no words in fact to capture what I felt as I watched those buildings fall. I'd been in them many times: the most memorable, on a Christmas date; and another time, on my 41st birthday having drinks with friends from Tennessee. I rode with clenched teeth in the Trade Center elevators, rocketing skyward to emerge relieved into a magnificent restaurant at the top, dazzled by a view unmatched. On 9-11, the buildings were gone, destroyed by people who hate Americans. By people who kill innocents because they hate our government. On 9-11, like so many others but for my own personal reasons, I was shattered.
It's been twelve years since the September 11 attacks. We've all gone on with our business, walking city sidewalks without fear and boarding airplanes, worrying less now about dark-haired men with knives and back to dreading the food and inevitable delays. Then on comes the news and we return. To bombs and blood and screaming people.
I have a friend, once a brother-in-law, who served in Vietnam. I used to marvel at his dull eyes when he watched Hollywood's versions of that war. I would cover my face at certain scenes; his eyes did not waver. "They never get it right," he used to say, and I would wonder how he could remain unshattered, seeing this horror again.
Years later, I smelled the burning bodies of those lost in New York City on 9-11. Today I saw the news and watched, dull-eyed, at the screaming and the blood in Boston. I don't want to be numb to it, and am horrified by the scenes near Copley Square, saddened by the stories of dead children and amputees. I am disgusted that, once again, people who hate have caused more heartache for the innocent. I am not, however, overwhelmed, nor am I shattered.
This is now the world.
No, I never went to war. Yet I am numb as though I did, because every day -- in our beautiful cities and in the skies overhead -- there is a chance that war will come to me.