Episode 242: Tomorrow and Tomorrow


You don’t need me to tell you what the morning of 9/11/01 felt like. You know. 

Here is simply my account of what a small band of kids did with all that fear and hatred.

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Hello, welcome back. Thank you for joining me today. I am in a campervan in the Scottish countryside and it’s still raining, still raining. But in a way that is fitting with the theme for today’s episode. It feels counter to everything I want to be doing, to think back and try to remember the morning of September 11 2001. I sit looking out at a gentle rain falling over a peaceful Scottish Island landscape, and that day of pain and shock eludes me. My present and that past are worlds apart in every imaginable sense, and yet the aftershocks of that day continue to reverberate in every minut detail of how the world has changed since then. 

Often it’s those smaller things which we took for granted that I still find myself chafing at, like being able to take your own water onto the plane – a little nothing. Yet it’s one of hundreds of small ways in which our liberties have been curtailed, shrunk, abbreviated, until we’ve become just so many herds of sheep. “Walk here, not here. This path is closed. That park is closed. You need a permit for that. You don’t have access. I’ll need to see some identification. You’ll need insurance to cover that…” And all of those canny entrepreneurs who have made millions off this fear: the insurance, of course, always the insurance. It’s no wonder I don’t want to recall that event that became the catalyst for all of this. It’s so depressing to see how much fear still governs us after so long. I think that most of the time we don’t even remember the reason for the fear. We just know we should be afraid of that person who looks different, of that suitcase that might have been abandoned, of that oddly shaped parcel. Fear stands in front of curiosity and blocks out the light. It steps in between you and a stranger and pushes aside the handshake of welcome. It leaves us all more isolated than we were 21 years ago. For many people, the very thought of travel and aeroplanes still brings a tremor to the heart. Even for me there are places that I would never consider traveling to because just the names bring pictures of violence into my head. 

For some people, the events of 911 stirred in them a desire for violence in retribution that came as a surprise to them – unbidden and unlooked for. Otherwise rational and calm people erupted in vitriolic hatred, and expressed desires for revenge, such as they’d never even imagined before. I guess this is the most prevalent impression I have of that day. So that’s the story I’ll tell. 

You don’t need me to tell you how the images of the towers on fire made me feel. You know, like me, I’m sure that your first instincts were to quickly gather your loved ones close. Get the kids from school, call all your family to make sure they were safe. Since I was in New York and closer to the scene of the tragedy, everyone I knew knew of someone who was affected by the attack. Someone’s uncle, cousin, grandfather, girlfriend was downtown or in the city in general and couldn’t get home for hours and hours, while those at home paced anxiously until they could hug them close again. This was the case for my brother’s new girlfriend, Tanya. She was trapped by the bridges and tunnels being closed and the city being sealed off, and she had to walk home from midtown Manhattan. It took many anxious hours. 

Then there were all those near misses – thousands of stories of people who had not gone into work that day for a myriad of tiny reasons. Guardian angels working overtime I think. I don’t remember how, but I know I got my children home early from school, and then we sat in shock, watching a bit of news and then shutting it off quickly as the images became too overwhelming. What I do remember is that we had just started rehearsals for our fall play, Macbeth – darkness, murder, witches, black magic, betrayal and conflict. Not much there to bring any relief. But this was our third season and the small community of children had grown infinitely close in that time. I felt that perhaps they needed each other.

I announced that rehearsal was not canceled, but that I would be there at the Church were we rehearsed for any of the kids who wanted or needed to be in that space. I wasn’t sure what we would do, but I felt deeply that there would be some comfort in our rituals and in being together on this terrible day. When four o’clock came, they started drifting in silent and grim-faced, but hugging each other and leaking a few tears as they did so. 

Our rehearsals always began with a check in circle where every individual got to speak in turn. It was an opportunity to unload whatever baggage had come with you in the door, and leave it outside so that you could go do the creative work that you needed to do. On that day, there was too much baggage. That opening circle lasted for an hour and a half out of the two hour rehearsal. The kids were able to voice their fears, and ask those questions for which there were no answers. Why? Many of them were angry, and one boy in particular, who I had thought of as always quiet and passive, expressed such an impassioned need to crush anyone who was found responsible, to punish them with every vile torture available, that I was absolutely shocked and dismayed. Other kids jumped in to argue with him that this would only bring more such violence, but in his fury he could not be swayed. 

In the end, I turned the conversation to the work we had in hand. Was there any connection we could make to the play? Could any of their feelings be expressed through their characters and the text? This prompted an excellent discussion of the uses of violence to achieve a goal, which could be directly applied to our interpretation of the play. That discussion provided a foundation for that production that we would return to again and again as we rehearsed. We found an outlet for the huge emotions that had been stirred up that day. This is what artists do. They take the human experience in all its chaos, and they turn it into story, pictures, music, that give it meaning and context. We were able to take the horrors of today and make something we could be proud of tomorrow. “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, creeps in this petty pace from day to day, to the last syllable of recorded time. And all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death. Out, out brief candle. Life’s but a walking shadow. A poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.  

I’m so glad you are all here with me, in my heart, and in my love. I appreciate you guys every day. Thanks for being here.

Published by dianathebard

Podcasting about growing up in the Hudson Valley in the 60s and 70s, falling in love, raising kids, getting divorced and being a free and creative world traveler!

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