Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - Sept. 12, 2002

One day at a time

By the end of this week, our country will have had hundreds of ceremonies - public and private, large and small - commemorating the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. There will be candlelight vigils and musical tributes while Old Glory lines the streets of our nation.

It is important to recognize anniversaries for they serve to show us how far we've come.

Perhaps those of dates we'd just as soon forget are even more important to remember. Of these, the first anniversary is especially significant. It provides an opportunity to realize that, difficult though it was, we made it through the first year.

During the first year, the families and friends of those who died had to go through the first birthdays, the first holidays, the first trips to the grocery store, the first days back to work, almost all of the first anythings without their loved ones. Some widows even gave birth to children who will never know their fathers. Others who were injured are still going through painful rehabilitation.

Like many Americans, I didn't know anyone killed or injured in the World Trade Center, the Pentagon or the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania. But while my birthday came only two days after the attacks, celebration was the last thing on my mind. I was numb and so incredibly sad. The attacks hit me in the gut. Those first few days, I was glued to the television. I read every newspaper article I could about Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. I visited a mosque to learn more about Islam. I watched the U.S. response and the global outpouring of love.

But I became so overloaded with the haunting images and endless discussions that I felt I could absorb no more. I needed a rest. I craved some sort of comfort and ended up renting "The Sound of Music" and "My Fair Lady" to get away from the disaster - if only for a short time.

In most societies, the first year is considered the traditional mourning period. Then you're expected to get on with your life. That doesn't mean that the injured and the victims' families will be "over it" just because the first year has come and gone. But while there were undoubtedly many days when many of them didn't want to get out of bed, they kept plodding along, taking one day at a time, perhaps even one hour at a time. And the realization they survived the first year somehow gives them confidence to look to the future when once it was hard to dwell on anything except what was past.

They will never really get over it. But they will cope, putting one foot in front of the other because they have to - for themselves and for their children. And while the path will not be a smooth one, life will return to normal - even if it isn't the life which was normal before Sept. 11.

The rest of us will cope, too. Let us hope that, as we go from one day to the next, we try to be more tolerant, more open-minded to different religions and ways of thinking, and more loving. For the sake of our children and our own future, we have to.

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