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Article ID: 4531
Age Group: Adult
Posted: October 8th. 2001
The squirrel was having none of it. As I headed back up the stairs, I really tried to look busy. Preoccupied. Distracted even. I walked a little faster. No good. In the few seconds that it took to turn the doorknob, he was there. Tiny paws grabbed at my ankle. Leaning back as far as he could without letting go his hold, the usually shy young gray squirrel peeked up at me. And right there and right then is when I finally lost it.
Like just about everyone else, I had spent the first few days after September 11th in front of the television. The footage of the planes hitting the Twin Towers, the stories of near escapes coming in from out of the dust clouds, the interviews with New York City officials, personnel and citizens- all these images and words held me spellbound in my chair. I didn't do much of anything else that first week. Nothing that I can recall anyway.
The week after that was no better. Fires still smoldered, people were still in shock, volunteers were still digging, and now we were getting names and seeing family and friends wandering the streets with pictures of their still-lost loved ones. Faces swam before our eyes. Tears and sweat ran down cheeks and dripped off the grizzled chins of fire fighters and police officers. Candle flames flickered around the many makeshift altars that seemed to be everywhere. And during week two, I stopped vacuuming every day. I only slept a few hours at a time. Fritz and I barely got through the weekly update. The laundry was piling up. And more than once I forgot to feed the critters down at the Little Pond.
Three weeks out and the memorial services appeared on the channels and the benefit concerts filled the airwaves and the numbers of the victims that scrolled across the bottom of the screens still seemed unbelievable. And now reports of troop deployments, espionage results and coalition building were interlaced with dire warnings of chemical warfare, biological terrors and other unknown threats that may be lurking out there just beyond the fringes of what used to be. Week three and the news programs still ran in the background all day long. I forgot to watch ER. I still wasn't sleeping. The dirty laundry was now overflowing onto the closet floor. I fed the critters more often, I think. But the usual joy of even that was now just another job, another chore and another obligation. I did it when I remembered and that's all.
And for quite a while now, the government press boys and the talking mental health experts and the fall season premiere promos have been telling us that it is time to 'get back to normal'. Get back on the planes or the terrorists have won. Spend your money and keep the economy going or the terrorists have won. Support your president, don't voice any dissent, be prepared to make sacrifices or the terrorists have won. And all the while this 'get back to normal' rhetoric was being spun, the scenes of the rubble still filled the television's eye and the names kept scrolling by and the plotting of the bad guys was being revealed and the war machine continued to crank out its orders. And on top of it all, we were supposed to get to back normal and do so without feeling guilty that we could while so many other people who had lost loved ones didn't have that option. Hullo? Were the guys preaching 'normalcy' even living on the same planet as the rest of us anymore?
Truth be told, I didn't really want to 'get back to normal'. I wasn't ready to get back to normal. (Although perhaps if someone could have actually pointed out just where 'normal' was, I might have been tempted to pay it a visit.) What's more, I also deeply and thoroughly resented the implication that if I didn't cooperate and 'get back to normal' right now that not only 'had the terrorists won', but that somehow I was un-American. Well that little bit of pundit pap finally snapped me out of my stunned stupor anyway. Because now I was deeply and thoroughly pissed off.
When I'm angry, I clean. So at least the laundry got done. The floors got vacuumed. The bills got paid. I even bought a few things. Although the latter had nothing to do with 'keeping the economy going'. I was out of razors. I needed to shave my legs. And it was actually while I was doing that very mundane thing that I realized something: During the entire almost-month since September 11th, I had never cried. Not once. Not yet.
Not until the day that I felt those two tiny little hands clinging to my foot. Not until the moment that I saw two very intense eyes looking up and into mine. Not until the instant that I realized what emotion that those wee dark eyes held within them. Because there it was. There- in the innocent eyes of a creature who had no idea what had happened in NYC and Washington or why it had happened or what would happen next- was the one reason for 'getting back to normal' that actually made sense. And so finally, the tears came.
I have no illusions. To the squirrel I am pretty much just a peanut tree with legs. What he made of those strange sobbing sounds coming from his favorite peanut tree with legs, I don't know. Just as he didn't know the shock, the pain, the depression or the numbness that had filled so many of my hours for so many days and weeks. Just as he didn't know why I didn't stop anymore to toss him one of the peanuts that I used to always carry in my pocket. Just as he didn't know why I couldn't even remember to put the peanuts in my pocket to begin with. The squirrel just didn't know.
But looking up at me, he had hope.
Hope that today I would notice him waiting there. Hope that today whatever had gone wrong in those past few days and weeks would somehow be right again. Hope that today I would have something to give to him. Hope that today what I couldn't understand and he couldn't comprehend would finally be over.
That was when I decided it was time to 'get back to normal' after all. Not for the good of the aviation industry. Not for sake of the economy. Not in support of the President. Not because I'm at all convinced that it would be un-American not to do so. And certainly not because I am overly concerned that terrorists may think that they have 'won' something just because I didn't go to Disneyworld.
In the weeks and months and maybe years to come, young people will be shipping out for potentially hazardous military duties. People in many lands will face starvation, deprivation and the despair that those evils bring. Children around the world will lie awake in their beds unable to sleep. Countrymen and women will look at each other with suspicion in their eyes. People of a different color or a different religion or a different nationality will be seen in a different and perhaps unflattering light.
And somewhere in the midst of all of that, there will be those who hope that today someone will notice them waiting there. And that today whatever had gone wrong in those past few days and weeks will somehow be right again. And that today there will be someone with a little food to share. Or a measure of courage to impart. Or a gentle word of understanding to speak. Or a warm hand of comfort to hold their own in the long and dark hours of the night. Someone to tell them that today- finally today- it is indeed over.
The best reason to get back to normal is to make 'normal' a better place to be. If we can recover, if we can go on, if we can just remember to tuck a few extra kernels of hope into our own spiritual pockets every day, then just maybe we can help others to get to that better place, too.
And yes, the little gray squirrel did get his peanut.
Walk in Love and Light,
Co-Founder - The Witches' Voice
Monday, October 8th., 2001
Photo Credit: Ya ever try to capture a little gray squirrel in a still frame? Thank the Goddess for Digital Video Cameras! Although I didn't quite get that "looking up image of hope", I did get close, and yes that it my toe in the shot (sorry). -- Fritz
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