My thanks to Mrs. Dunne and the children of P.S. 31 for their rendition of the Pledge of Allegiance.
More than a decade ago, an entire generation was introduced to the magical, wondrous world of Harry Potter.
It was a world full of friendships, hard lessons and evil.
Harry’s innocence, though it fought valiantly to hang on, was lost very early. The tragic attack on his world, his family and others, left him scarred – physically and emotionally.
A decade ago, another scar, a real scar in the real world, was left on American soil and in the hearts of many around the world. 9/11 changed the perception of adults. It changed our sense of security. The collective sense of insecurity became pervasive, and could not be hidden from our children.
Years ago – a generation ago – adults worked to absorb and hide concern and fear so children wouldn’t have to know about danger in the world. Children could be children – innocent, naïve, oblivious. Happy and free from worry, free from the burdens of adulthood, of evil.
But, 9/11 brought that evil into focus. There was no hiding it. Our children felt every breath of it. And while they could not ignore it, many of them were too young to process it, to understand it.
With Harry Potter books and movies running along the same time as al Qaeda gained steam, the children were able to give fear a home. They saw Voldemort as evil while we saw bin Laden as evil. They watched this fictitious evil grow stronger, be fought, grow stronger yet again. And they watched Harry, and all the other ‘good’ people, as they struggled to counter the terrorist acts of Voldemort and the Death Eaters. It was much the same as the West struggled to beat back, contain and defeat bin Laden and al Qaeda. While this real-life process will take a lot more than a wave of a wand or a spoken Latin phrase, the connection is clear.
Now, a decade later, Bin laden is dead, killed on May 2nd. Voldemort has been obliterated (his last breath ALSO on May 2nd). And while the destruction, pain and devastation remain, so does hope. Our children have grown. They’re no longer wide-eyed and innocent. They are now street smart and educated. They’re young adults coming into their own, recognizing good and evil. Understanding where each rests in society, and feeling confident that they can overcome it. They can fight back. They witnessed the most horrific act of terrorism in US history. They witnessed the destruction of the fictitious world they love. And they witnessed, “19 Years Later” as it says in the book, how even through horror, even through death and destruction, life goes on.
There is no line between winning and losing. That area is blurred and wide. Winning is measured by love, friendship and integrity, while loss occurs when there is no hope.
Harry Potter will forever be a force in the minds of an entire generation. It thrilled. It frightened. It stirred. I will miss hearing about the newest book coming out and the newest film being released. I will miss the excitement in my daughter’s young eyes as she discussed the symbolism she saw in the stories. I will miss the years of toy wands, wizard-cape costumes and witch’s brooms. A lifetime – my child’s lifetime – was shared with Harry Potter. I watched her grow and mature along with the characters. The actors.
I am sad to see it end, but I am happy we had it at the time we did. Besides giving children a fantasy to explore, it gave them books to read and ideas to debate and exchange. In the dark shadow of 9/11, Harry Potter offered hope, and for that, I am forever grateful.
Thank you Harry, Hermione, Ron and all the others. Most especially, thank you J.K. Rowling.
Seven years ago this day, at about this hour, I had just dropped Daughter off to school – it was her fourth day of first grade in a brand new school. I came home and tried to get online but dial-up took even longer to connect that day than usual. I remember being angry at that. I also remember walking away to let it connect while I nonchalantly poured myself a cup of coffee.
Back at the computer, my front page had finally opened. There was a headline – “Plane crashes into World Trade Center”. Hmm. Another idiot flying low enough to hit a tower? Something like that had happened just a week prior – an accident. A stupid mistake. Of course, this was more of that. I clicked the link, poured a second cup before it fully loaded only to see the same headline without a story. There was nothing else on the page, just the headline “Plane crashes into World Trade Center”.
Annoyed with our Internet provider, I disconnected from the internet, and immediately, my phone rang. A friend, breathless and struggling, said, “Put on the TV.” And then I saw it. A plane had indeed crashed into the World Trade Center. Smoke billowed from the sides of the building and I couldn’t imagine how those people would get out… or how someone would get in to help them all the way up there at the top.
I called hubby in and we watched, somehow realizing there was more to this horror than what we saw. And suddenly, it happened again. We saw the plane, the impact, the resulting explosion of fuel, flames and debris. When the reporters said another plane was ‘lost’ or not responding, we ran from the house. We had no idea what was going on but whatever it was, we were all going to be together.
We weren’t the only ones with that idea. Parents were streaming in and out of the school when we arrived, all taking their children home to ‘safety’. We made it home just in time to see the first tower fall. The image was repeated and repeated. Planes crashing into the buildings, the antenna disappearing behind a rolling cloud of smoke as it plummeted to the ground clinging atop the building. People running, chased by clouds of smoke and debris. By the time the day had ended those image were seared in our brains. As were the images of first responders rushing to the madness. Hoping to help. Not thinking of their safety but the safety of others. New York’s Finest and New York’s Bravest. Never were we more proud. Never were we more saddened.
Smoke lingered for days. The stench in the air made it nearly impossible to breathe. How people braved ground zero, I can’t say, but I know their strength and determination to rescue those they knew and those they didn’t know was the beauty and humanity in an otherwise inhumane and disgusting day.
New Yorkers pulled together. The country stood behind us. We all cried for the victims – here in NY, in Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon – and we hoped. We watched the world come together in support of us. And we watched that support get squandered away. We heard our leader say we’d get the man responsible for this – dead or alive – and then we heard him say that man was no longer important. We watched world support turn to world disdain and we watched attention shift from the horrible truth of 9/11 to the disgusting lies of WMDs.
We lost lives. We lost pride. We lost our standing in the world. The NY skyline still waits to be rebuilt and the man responsible for it all still runs free. Are we any safer? Are we any more tolerant or understanding? Do we have each other’s back or will we be at each other’s throats? Will the next election bring change or more of the same? Will we ever see a true uniter in the White House or will dividers continue to divide and weaken?
Seven years on, we have more questions than answers. Seven years on, we wait for closure. Seven years on, thousands are still mourned and a lame duck president sits in the Oval Office. We are no closer to getting the 9/11 masterminds. We are no safer than we were on September 10th, 2001. Seven years on, gay rights and choice are more important to some than the effects – and inconclusiveness of 9/11, the war in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq. Seven years on, soldiers have died. Innocent civilians have been maimed and killed. Our first responders suffer damaged lungs and death. The smell lingered for days. The horror lingers till now as headlines of “Never Forget” are replaced by headlines of “Pigs with Lipstick”.
Seven years on and it’s more of the same with, sadly, no real change in sight.