In the nine years, seven months and 24 days since Sept. 11, 2001, not too many cloudless, crystal clear blue sky days have passed in which I haven’t been reminded of that one that shone brightly in the warm, early autumn morning when I scrambled desperately along with most of my immediate family to get in touch with each other and out of Manhattan as two nearby buildings collapsed with thousands of people trapped inside.
When the news broke on Sunday that Osama bin Laden had been killed in a firefight in Pakistan, my 2-year-old daughter was still awake in her bed and calling out to me to join her for our nightly show tunes duet ritual. However, instead of climbing into her bed, as is our custom, I carried her into mine as I waited for President Obama to address the nation.
“Amewican fwag,” she said matter-of-factly as she snuggled down under the covers, pointing to the red, white and blue stripes hanging on the pole to the left of the podium adorned with the presidential seal on the television screen. “Dat’s music.”
When we were in the airport a few weeks ago, she pointed to another American flag and when I identified it for her, she assumed there was a correlation between it and the Don McLean song, “American Pie,” which is one of her favorites.
“Dat’s music,” she said of the flag that day, too.
It feels perfectly appropriate to me to associate music with the American flag. I usually associate more traditionally patriotic tunes with the flag, and even with airports — more specifically, with airport security — but the sight of anything red, white and blue is worthy of breaking into song nonetheless.
Since becoming a mom, the process of getting through airport security is even more laborious than just kicking off my shoes, shrugging off my jacket, emptying the contents of my carry-on and enduring a wand scan of my bra and the button on my jeans.
Added to the process now is collapsing a stroller, taking the Children’s Motrin, formula and applesauce and diaper cream out of the diaper bag — all while holding and explaining to a sleepy toddler why the baby doll and bottle had to be snatched from her arms as her cries implicitly express that she neither cares nor understands that each item needs to be X-rayed, and that we had to wake up earlier than we would have a decade ago because the lines are longer than they’ve ever been because of a few box cutters that changed the world in which we live.
And on the occasions that I’ve set off the metal detector and been pulled aside for a more in-depth screening, my daughter really doesn’t care or understand why I can’t continue carrying her, but she knows she feels helpless and sad while she watches a strange person pat her mom up and down.
Only it’s neither, fortunately. Helpless is when it takes hours to drive a couple of miles as fighter jets roar overhead and others on foot run away from smoke and debris, bloody and hot under the blazing sun on an Indian summer day. Sad is when your friends and friends of friends mourn the untimely and unthinkable loss of their own loved ones. Enduring long lines and taking your computer out of its case while inching through a metal detector is hardly a sacrifice.
Nine years, seven months and 24 days later, I never forget while standing in a long airport security line the families who suffered real losses on 9/11. Since becoming a mom, my empathy for them has grown exponentially.
I feel aches and pains in my bones when I think of the parents who never saw their children born, or the children who never saw their parents walk through the front door again. And I think of my own little girl and how much we enjoy crystal-clear blue sky days together. And cloudy ones. And rainy and snowy ones. And ones when we never even go outside to see what the sky is doing because we’re holed up in the house because she’s got the sniffles or I’ve got work or we’re feeling lazy or whiny or content or bored.
It doesn’t really matter to me that the security lines in the airport will likely remain long, even though Osama bin Laden is dead. Because we’ll keep singing show tunes in bed and “American Pie” when we see the American flag. Because we’re still here, and because we can. Yes we can.
More at MeredithCarroll.com.