I was talking to a friend who lives in NYC. We were talking about the Civil War, about what it takes to be a soldier, about what kind of courage, valour or insanity it takes to actually walk into a battlefield, ready to kill or be killed. At some point in the conversation, my friend said, "Oh dear. It looks like a plane crashed into the WTC." His TV was on; the breaking news caught his eye.
We talked for a few more minutes. A little while later there was a huge boom-crash. All the car alarms in the neighborhood went off, Jake wedged himself under my bed in fear. I had no TV and didn't really try to figure it out. I extracted Jake from under the bed and went to work, annoyed at the heavy traffic, wondering what was going on. That's when I found out what was happening.
I don't know what it was like in other parts of the U.S. Living in one of the cities that was directly affected was surreal. Nothing has ever been the same since that day.
I've been watching Foyle's War on netflix. It is a superb series, well written and beautifully acted, about a police detective living on the south coast of England during WWII. The show portrays WWII from a completely new perspective. It was such a huge war in so many ways. Of course I've read extensively about the Third Reich and the Holocaust (oh that - again!), also Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I've read about what life was like in the U.S. - the rations, victory gardens, women getting into the workforce in huge numbers. It was bad here but good lord it was much worse in England.
In one episode set in 1941, there is a raffle held in the town in which the series is set. The prize is an onion. Yeah. It's incredible to think about the regular people in that war, dashing into cellars during the bombing raids, receiving telegrams informing them their loved ones had been killed. They lived with the threat of invasion for years, they sacrificed everything. The female lead in the series stains her lips with beet root because there is no lipstick. And yet they carry on, not that every citizen was as upstanding as they could have been, of course.
I've been thinking about how, when the war was finally over, people married and had kids - lots of kids - in a celebration of life. Those kids grew up to listen to the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Who. They came of age and flipped off the older generation. Yeah, I'm talking about my generation, The Boomers.
A classic line in A Hard Day's Night, in the opening train sequence, has to do with the Beatles making fun of a middle aged man. He is disgusted with their antics. He says, "We fought the war for you!" He appears to be a fuddy duddy, but watching Foyle's War gives me insight into what that meant. People suffered terribly, even those who didn't pick up guns or drop bombs.
The Beatles are listening to the radio
Man on Train: And we'll have that thing off as well, thank you.
Man on Train: An elementary knowledge of the Railway Acts would tell you that I'm perfectly within my rights.
Paul: Yeah, but we want to hear it, and there's more of us than you. We're a community, like, a majority vote. Up the workers and all that stuff!
Man on Train: Then I suggest you take that damned thing to the corridor or some other part of the train where you obviously belong.
John: [Leaning over to the man] Give us a kiss.
Man on train: Don't take that tone with me, young man. I fought the war for your sort.
Ringo: I bet you're sorry you won.
Wars aren't like that now, at least here in the U.S. We've been fighting in Afghanistan for how long? Yes, the wars suck the lifeblood out of the U.S. economy, but we're insulated from that reality now. We're numb to what's happening. No one in the U.S. ever worries about the availability of onions no matter how many wars we are fighting.
I'm thinking about all the souls who left their bodies on that day eleven years ago in NYC, and here, too, at the Pentagon, about the total shock those of us who weren't killed experienced. No one would have believed, on September 10, 2001, that anything like it could ever happen on American soil. But it could, and it did.
I find the memory harrowing - still. May all those souls who burned or fell from the towers, or were killed in the Pentagon, rest in peace. May the souls of the greatest generation rest in peace. May we remember and become more peaceful. May it be so!