On September 13th 2001, my husband and I planned to leave for our meticulously planned two-week trip to Tuscany. It had been a delightful destination for him when he had gone years before with a male friend of ours. It had seemed the perfect place to celebrate my fiftieth birthday. We had to plan meticulously because although I was more mobile with my MS compromises twenty years ago, I still would have required a wheelchair for lengthy walking. And a wheelchair meant not having to traverse too many quaint cobblestone streets which meant a careful itinerary to share with me at least a few of his favorite locations and some brand-new ones. We found online international support for free wheelchairs to use on arrival at the airport. The map of Italy we had folded and unfolded to travel each road with our fingers was left worn and tattered during the months before the much-anticipated event.
September 11th. All flights were cancelled. Our friends in Europe, giving workshops or traveling, were frantic to come back home. Even if we had been able to fly out in in a few days’ time, it would have cut enough into our already short vacation time to render it moot. Every single Italian host and hostess in every venue refunded all of our deposits. There was a warm swathe of caring for Americans during this tragedy. They did not forget how many Americans had supported them and died during the war.
Besides, Richard and I both had psychotherapy clients directly and indirectly affected by this event. Calls started coming in over the next few weeks to begin coping with the unimaginable. Because Richard also had a Manhattan practice as well as the one we shared in upstate New York, a flood of new referrals kept calling him. Anxiety, despair, depression, grief, illness, rage, and PTSD all required his care. What was the loss of a balloon ride over vineyards and olive orchards landing in a field with a champagne breakfast compared to the losses endured in this deliberately public act of mass slaughter?
My father died in a car accident seventy years ago on the eleventh of September. I was born eleven days after he died with over one hundred bones broken in his body. My personal history of loss resurfaced for a while in the aftermath. Grief was heavy in the air along with the fumes of a desire for vengeance, a justifiable retaliation for The Enemy. The chaos of that time bleeds into the current situation of ever more catastrophic losses. Biden has touted the unity of our nation after 9/11. But the widely differing seeds of action to address terrorism were already there. The “patriotic” call for hate and violence vs. the call for genuine national/international political self-reflection for viable boundaries and repair was simmering. It boiled over into an ongoing largely fruitless war which further mucked up our image on the world stage. The long war cost the lives of many more thousands of civilians “over there” as well as leaving thousands of our own soldiers dead or maimed for life.
Those same divisions in the need for action now show up in our ‘war’ against each other with the foe being a deadly virus. Who do we hate, who do we blame, to whom do we deny any impulse of understanding, who do we manipulate into being an ally made in our image? How do we grab what we can while we can? How do we manage our own affairs, dire as they are? There are no easy, no quick, answers.
I do have faith that there is an order in the universe. Much of the time, I am as blind and wounded and overwhelmed as anyone in knowing where that coherence may be found. During the planetary chaos we are creating, it is only clear that each of us must find a center we can trust, hold to and act from. Surrendering to that point of singularity, the still stable point of infinite potential within myself, within us all, is the most important journey there is for me. May we be guided by Love in action.
Though in retrospect, I must say that our envisioned trip to Tuscany was the best trip that I never took. Despite the terrible associations, I still remember it fondly.