On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was three months out of college, single, and getting used to ‘the real world’. And by ‘real world’, I mean single, with a shiny new Hyundai Elantra, and living back home with my parents.
After the events of that day sunk in, and I mean really sunk in, I decided I should not bring children into a world capable of such horror. I thought it wouldn’t be fair to them or me, as I wouldn’t be able to protect them from all that lurked in the shadows. And as time wore on, I learned more and more about much of the world’s lack of fondness for this country, and it truly shook me to my core.
Still, I went about my life, and, like pebbles on a shore, I softened over time. I softened so much, in fact, that I bore three children in a span of two years.
The events of the past week, the Boston Marathon bombings and subsequent activity, have affected me, though, far more than I ever imagined they could twelve years ago.
I thought briefly about not allowing ourselves to be intimidated, frightened, and afraid to move about our lives. I thought about the great shows of strength and solidarity that have risen from these terrible tragedies, and none of those afforded me peace. None of those removed the fear we came to know so well a decade ago.
I heard idle chatter about racial and religious profiling, but it meant nothing to me. Like birds chittering on a wire. This was real. And this was scary. We watched an eight-year-old boy lose his life. We watched others’ lives literally torn apart. We watched our already-fragile grasp on our world crumble further.
And I’m glad for the folks who cheered for the Red Sox, and glad everyone was able to sing Sweet Caroline. I am. Had I been there, I would have drank up every moment of that energy as well. That display quite honestly warmed my heart.
But, I ask you this: Who’s going to protect my kids from a surprise attack? Who will protect my kids from this year’s recruits to the training camp?
Who’s going to make sure no one opens fire on their school, or plans a surreptitious attack at the zoo on the day of their field trip? Who’s going to ensure the placement of their smiling faces?
Never have I been one to roll over. Never have I been one to resign myself to circumstances. And I’ve certainly never been one to give up. But, I’ve changed. I have children now, I must protect them, and in order to do that, I must protect myself. Gone are the days of foolhardy decision-making. Gone are the days of leaving so much to chance.
I’m ashamed to say that I, too, slink shifty-eyed through the airport. I study my surroundings. My eyes dart around for suspicious packages. I hold my children tighter. I hold my husband tighter. I cancel flights.
I have become the person I never wanted to be, the person I vowed, after September 11, I would never become.
Because I hadn’t yet known the love of a mother for her child.