Side effects, five years later
Oops. I did it again.A month ago tomorrow I woke up pre-dawn to get ready for a flight out of Aspen to visit my parents. Foremost on my mind was the safe, unwrinkled transportation of my wedding dress. I worried I might not sleep well on the plane if I didn’t get a window seat. For the sake of my hair, I also prayed there’d be no humidity during my stay in New York.I was a mile away from Sardy Field when my mom called my cell phone to ask if I’d heard about the terrorist plot that had been thwarted by British and Pakistani officials hours earlier to simultaneously blow up jets between Britain and the U.S. using a combination of sports drinks and cell phones. I hadn’t.Shortly thereafter I watched in horror as the three precious tubes of Blistex tucked away in my carry-on were confiscated at the two newly added security checkpoints at the airport. I tried with all my might not to burst into tears and throw a full-blown temper tantrum when the flight attendant folded in half my meticulously-packed gown and shoved it in an overhead compartment, telling me that the airline employee in India with whom I had spoken via phone days earlier never should have promised me that it could be hung in the cockpit, that this was now a matter of national safety. And as I slunk down into my aisle seat, I wondered how, nearly five years to the day after living in Manhattan on Sept. 11, 2001, I had ever allowed myself to be lulled back into a false sense of security again.By Sept. 12 that year, it was hard to go more than an hour without remembering the horror of what could possibly happen. That day and every subsequent day for over a year it was always something. An alert. An alarm. A newspaper headline. A heightened terror threat level. The formation of the terror threat level color chart.Still, by the fall of 2002, when the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks past without incident on American soil, it wasn’t so hard to forget for a while. You could wake up. Take the subway to work. Have a spat with a co-worker or family member. Grow impatient behind someone in line at the supermarket. Eat an ordinary meal with friends. Enjoy a special occasion. With the exception of taking off your shoes while being X-rayed at the airport, you could pretty much live your life like it was Sept. 10, 2001.Until the next time something happened to remind you exactly what’s possible in the blink of an eye. Again.And now, two days before the five-year anniversary of those four hijacked planes, the side effects of the reminders are a little different. This time the inconveniences that come in the name of safety are just a little more, well, inconvenient. Without the smell of burning buildings hanging in the air, burning holes in your nostrils, it can be a little hard to justify those sacrifices that need to be made in the name of safety.My lips probably should, but don’t quiver with pride and understanding when a uniformed security guard throws my lip balm in the trash prior to liftoff. They chap. I get annoyed. And then feel a little guilty.I try to remind myself that my complaints about the inconveniences for safety’s sake are trivial. Those whom I love most in the world escaped unharmed on Sept. 11, 2001. I know people who lost those whom they loved most that day, whose boyfriend worked at Cantor Fitzgerald or whose husband never made it home to see the birth of their child. Or whose loved one was buried alive and rescued by the grace of God (and a firefighter).I should be patriotic and understand that I have no right to trivial complaints like my lips being denied balm. Because I was randomly bestowed the privilege and gift of having no reason to be in the World Trade Center at 8:46 or 9:02 on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.Five years later. You blink. You forget. Then you remember. You think how grateful you are to be here. And then you forget. Again. Until the next time something happens to make you remember.E-mail questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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