A little over 18 months ago, just about every journalist of any renown wrote an article covering the bombings at the Boston Marathon. Most encouraged us to return to normal life which, in their opinion, would be a slap in the face to terrorists… a message that they cannot destroy our freedoms. Thomas L. Friedman wrote for the New York Times, “This is our house. We intend to relax here. And we are not afraid.” At the time the column was published, I remember saying to my husband that Friedman did Americans a disservice by suggesting that we embrace his mindset. Fear, when harnessed properly, can be an advantage.
Perhaps, the reason Mr. Friedman and I differ in our way of thinking lies in our definitions of the word fear. To me, fear is our inner warning system – gut instinct so to speak. It keeps us on our toes and heightens our senses. It protects us at times when we least expect to need protection. Fear also makes us deeply aware of the fragility of life. To quote Benjamin Disraeli, “Fear makes us feel our humanity.”
Is there anyone who does not remember the attack on the World Trade Center? Weren’t we all afraid then? Considering the increase in terror attacks around the world, I would suggest we should be afraid now.
Three days after 9/11, my husband and I set out on a cross country trip from Florida to California. All along the way, billboards hosted images of the American flag and slogans such as “United We Stand.”
No matter what road we traveled, cars whizzed by flying our symbol of liberty with pride from their antennae. Rear windshields and side windows sported decals of Old Glory. I was proud to be a passenger in one of those cars. We honked our horns to show solidarity. It felt good!
At each rest stop, restaurant and motel, people seemed friendlier than I remembered them on past trips. Where once no one looked behind them to see if a door needed to be held, now men, women and children were going out of their way to help one another. Smiles were bigger. “Good morning” greetings were louder. We were bound by tragedy and determined that nothing and no one would interfere with life as we knew it. Americans for America was the common thread that held us together.
Rather than heading straight for Los Angeles, we took a detour to Sedona, Arizona. I sat silently in a pew at the Chapel of the Holy Cross and stared out at the beautiful vista that is my country. I cried. Strangers rushed to give me tissues. Many hands were placed on my shoulders in understanding. I felt a surge of strength… the rebirth of faith… that America would be safe from further destruction because people would not forget.
Ninety days later, my husband and I made the exact same trip, but this time, everything was different. The billboards were rotting from the wind and the rain. Those flags flying from car antennae – they were tattered and torn if they remained at all. People no longer greeted each other or held a door or offered a helping hand. They had forgotten; the pressures of everyday life dulling the memory of the attack on home soil. This time when we stopped at the Chapel of the Holy Cross, I cried for a very different reason.
Never would I advocate that we let fear of the past prevent us from making decisions that enhance our present and future. However, the past is like a box of crayons -- the application of its many colors gives depth to our vision of life and liberty. Those colors can only benefit us as we move into an uncertain future.
To ignore that fear has a place in our lives is to ignore that danger is all around us. Rather than professing that we are not afraid, let’s acknowledge that we are and rightly so. Then, let’s choose to temper our fear with the softer shades of awareness. Do not ignore fear because to do so would allow our enemies to sneak up from behind and color over our lives, our home, and our country with their own brand of crayons. The color they will use is the deepest, darkest black of death and destruction.
Published: Jupiter Courier - April 30, 2015