July| Vol. 22 No. 8.02 | Christian's Chronicles © 2015 – All rights reserved.
As I write this, the commemoration of the terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon has come and passed, 14 times. Passenger airplanes, much like the one on which I, just hours ago in seat 24D, sat contemplating how to author these words of remembrance through my own perspective, were taken over by hijackers bent on murder to be used as weapons against the United States. The actions of a handful of terrorists armed only with crude weapons inflicted an immense amount of damage on a nation, far beyond the killing of the thousands of innocent men, women, and children who were slaughtered the instant the planes crashed into their respective targets and in the subsequent terrible minutes as the public watched in helpless horror while those who were trapped in the burning structures escaped the flames by leaping to their deaths. These events shook the world with such force that the ripple effects are still sweeping across the globe in powerful waves. On September 11, history came to a momentary stop, then altered its course to chart a different path.
I share no direct link to this tragedy. Unlike some of my friends, I did not suffer the loss of a loved one on that day. I was working in the IT industry at the time, while working toward becoming the first in my family to earn my college degree, and completely oblivious to the news on that particular day. I only heard about what was happening when I received a frantic phone call, barely understanding my mother’s Hungarian words through the sobs of concern for her youngest child. In whatever way she was expressing the urgency of the situation was so far beyond my understanding, or at any rate incomprehensible to me, that I had to repeatedly ask: “What are you talking about?” At some point, she tried to get through to me by succinctly stating: “It’s World War 3! Turn on the news!”
Her words, in search of clarity, may well have proven to be prophetic. At the time, I listened dismissively, but turned on the television to see the burning buildings and feel the chill of devastation, having taken my mother’s language more literally than perhaps she intended. As a child of the Cold War on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain, the impending doom of a conflict of annihilation between irresistible forces of history was for me an ever-present specter. The images of smoke and destruction had led me to jump to the fatal conclusion, yet still in disbelief, that the unthinkable was indeed happening. While that was of course true in a certain sense, it was not the nuclear war we had come to expect from a culture of entertainment that had cemented images of post-apocalyptic nightmares played out in various ways, in our brains.
Unable to comprehend or accept this as a reality, after a few minutes my mind was able to assimilate the information and realize that what I was witnessing on the TV screen, though devastating and all too real, was not what I first took it to be. The initial cold-sweat and tension of the physical reaction to what I thought was occurring became somewhat more muted when I was able to come to terms with this. I felt somewhat embarrassed and foolish, and I breathed a huge sigh of relief. Immediately after that, I felt guilt and again embarrassed by the selfishness of the comfort I took in the fact that me or my loved ones were not in the immediate danger I initially expected. There were people dying before my eyes. Those lives, that devastation, was very much real. And World War 3, perhaps not in the shape we had come to expect it, may well have been upon us in a different form.
9/11 touched each of us in unique ways. Today, this September 11, 2015, I am using this occasion as a remembrance of a different sort. I am starting a personal journey, retracing the steps that have led me to where I am now, about half way on the journey of life, and halfway around the world from pretty much anywhere I had been in recent years. I have developed a habit of making more than simply rest and relaxation of the time I have away from work, and this time will be no different. I have the opportunity to travel and to try to do some good through some volunteer work, which has become somewhat of an annual ritual for me. I intend to do both, and in the process find all the pieces to the puzzle of my life, or at least a different way to arrange them.
This, at least in theory, will be the undercurrent of the next few episodes of The Chronicles. I will see where it leads. For now I can only be thankful for having had the opportunity to travel far and wide. If nothing else, it provides material for The Chronicles.