Even on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, a cynic can’t help but be cynical. In fact, I can still remember my cynicism, glowing like a beacon of reality through my tears and fears on that surreal day itself.
As was everyone else in the country, my wife and I were glued to the television all day. We watched the towers fall, again and again and again. Frantically, we tried and tried to reach my sister on the phone; she worked just a short distance away from the World Trade Center. I attempted to call some good friends, who lived or worked only slightly further away. No luck there either.
So we watched TV. What else could we do? In the evening, briefly, the cameras left the devastation of lower New York City and the Pentagon, and focused on the steps of the Capitol, where U.S. Senators and Representatives had gathered together to show solidarity in the face of ... what? We didn’t know yet, although most of us suspected that Islamic extremists were the perpetrators. My wife and I had spent a lot of the day spouting off about the evils of religion. We had no evidence, of course, but we needed to rant about something.
Spokesmen for both major parties (Hastert for the Republicans, Daschle for the Democrats) tried to reassure Americans by promising that we’d identify and find those responsible for the heinous acts of that morning, and make them “pay the price.” As if reparations were possible.
Then, in a seemingly spontaneous act of unity, the congressional crowd began to sing “God Bless America.” I’m sure for most of the country it was a moving moment.
For me, though, a transplanted New Yorker, who had spent many, many hours working and playing in the buildings so recently destroyed, the song was a disgusting display. My wife and I looked at each other, and shook our heads in astonishment.
“Perfect solution,” she said. “Let’s ask Jesus for help. If they'd only known, they could have given him a buzz yesterday.”
“Yeah,” I added, “maybe next they’ll sing ‘If You Believe in Fairies, Then Clap Your Hands.’”
Then we both laughed at nothing funny, as I dialed the phone again.