9/11…The Five Stages of Grief

September 11, 2001
September 11th
Synonymous with grief, pain
the end of an age of innocence
Terrorism evoking terror
as it was intended to do.

Ten years later, we still grieve.
Still, we grieve.
Thus it was
thus it is
thus it will be.
We honor those who died on that horrible day
(its horror magnified by the stunning perfection of
the bright blue, crisp, cloudless sky).
A skyline maimed
a city maimed
a country…a world maimed.
Changed, irrevocably.

At first, we could not fathom the loss of life,
life’s fleeting and fragile nature.
We could not accept the death toll.
New Yorkers hung flyers on walls, bus stops, anywhere they could:
Have you seen…
my mother, my father, my sister, brother, child?
Our nature…to cling to hope, against all odds.
Flyers, become a makeshift memorial,
even as we could not let go.
Even as we were numb
a nation of zombies
walking aimlessly in silence.
The first stage of grief:  Denial.

Denial…hard to hold onto
hard to maintain, in the face
of iconic buildings crushed to ashes,
lives reduced to dust.
No longer in denial, we shifted,
entered a space of anger, of rage,
against the “other.”

Emboldened by our President,
(who told New York firefighters that he heard them, and
“the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon,”)
we became a nation of über-patriots
brandishing flags everywhere;
on our cars, outside our houses,
on lapel pins,
protecting our homeland.
It was “us” versus “them”
We were the good, they were the evil.

Angry, enraged, we became
a nation of accusers and abusers
attacking Muslims…the “others”
blaming ordinary people, who weeks before
had been neighbors, co-workers,
whose children were our children’s classmates.
We looked askance at them on the street
we were terrified by them on our airplanes
we didn’t want them in our midst.
We raged at everyone
we wanted to lash out, strike back
at somebody…anybody.
The second stage of grief:  Anger.

In our anger, our fear, our terror,
we rallied around our government
looked to our leaders for strength
for guidance, for relief.
Our country went to war
a “war on terror”
so that we might be safe.
We agreed…many of us, many of our allies
that we needed to, had the right to, strike back.

Our leaders vowed that this would never happen again
they would not let it.
Never would our nation face another 9/11.
This was what we needed to know.
We would be safe; we would be protected.
For our part, we could live with giving up some things:
cherished rights – of privacy, of freedom of speech, of expression.
An acceptable price to pay for safety.

We bargained away our rights
bartered our freedom for safety
A new social compact was born,
but with whom?
The devil we knew?
Or one as yet unknown, untested, unproven?
Which devil?
Did we get what we so desperately sought?
The third stage of grief:  Bargaining.

The bargaining worked…for a time.
Still, our country mourned.
Still, we felt the indelible loss
of life, a way of life, hope.
We were not the America of old
we were frightened, fearful, forlorn.
Sinking into a national malaise,
we strove to calm our fear, staunch the wound,
ease the pain.

Hopelessness set in.
We would never again be safe
no matter our level of vigilance
no matter the layers of protection
no matter the bargains we made.
Again, we became numb.

We numbed ourselves
went on a spree, became gluttonous
insatiably acquisitive.
We bought…anything and everything:
newer and bigger houses, newer and bigger cars,
newer and faster computers, gadgets.
Yet we were never sated, satiated, satisfied.
Yet we never forgot.
Lurking just beneath the surface was emptiness.
The fourth stage of grief:  Depression.

And so we come to the present
to today, ten years later – 9/11/11.
Where are we now?
There is something new in the air;
a cleansing breeze.
It has not come to our country…yet.
Around the world, where hopelessness reigned,
it is a time for new beginnings
for the young to sweep out the old:
the old leaders, the old ways, the old rage.
From Tunisia to Egypt to Libya to Syria,
from Spain to Israel, the people are speaking.
Not governments, but ordinary people.
Where will it spread next?

Is it time for a quiet revolution in America?
A time for us to take our country back?
A time to move on, to move ahead,
to accept that the way things have been
is not the way they should be?
Is it time to forsake extremism
to resist the golden calf?
To turn to each other with love instead of hate,
openness instead of fear,
acceptance instead of exclusion?

The fifth stage of grief:  Acceptance.

Audrey Roth
September 2011

About armsakimbobook

I'm a mother, a lawyer, a feminist, a writer, a potter, and an inveterate and unapologetic New Yorker. My book, Arms Akimbo: A Journey of Healing, tells of my journey of healing over a number of years, learning to live a full life after I was molested by my father at a very young age. I live in Maynard, MA, with my wife and and our two moose-cats, Samson and Hercules. My daughter used to live with me part-time, but she's all grown up now and in her junior year of college, which I can't quite fathom, since she was born about five minutes ago...
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