When I was a child my father used to send me out to get our Sunday morning bagels. I always dreaded this and wished, instead, he would go in his car. I hated walking alone. Feeling alone and vulnerable. More than that, I hated the line at the store, filled with hungry souls who wanted their breakfast and their Sunday news quickly. And I hated the attention on me when, in the rush at the moment of ordering, I would forget the difference between a pound and a dozen. Always, in the crush, the line still growing behind me and the brusque woman who asked for my order, I got it wrong, "Can I have a pound of bagels?"
I wish I could say now that she laughed, or that anyone did. No. She was angry. "You mean a dozen? Say what you want. A dozen, not a pound!" She did not add what I heard--you fool. She was a Jewish woman, as was I a Jewish child. She was probably a mother as I would be one day. But in that moment, in that still moment when time expands to a memory I would never forget, she was not kind. And kindness then and more now matters -- whether it is in the moment where one individual can help or wound another or a nation can be the purveyor of compassion and decency or further the acts of hate.
Today is a dozen years since I lost my baby girl as she ran from the falling towers of the then called World Trade Center. She, full of life and with the life of our future held within her womb, was crushed by the matter and the matters that fell. Five minutes late and ten feet from an alley that would have meant the rest of our lives.
How many firefighters and first responders lost their lives that day and since? Three hundred forty three firefighters that day alone. And in the years since -- countless. They are still dying.
How many lost their lives because of that morning -- our military service people, our first responders, innocent civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq? For what? What has been accomplished in the years since that have for a kinder globe for anyone?
A dozen years. How many pounds of flesh? Can lives be measured in such a way ever? In quantity? In number? How many people? How many died or, like me, lost forever the lives they once occupied in exchange for this one, this one filled with grief and worry forever that it will happen again?
No one can ever answer. Nor should they try.
Know this: My baby girl -- Vanessa Lang Langer -- mattered. She changed so many lives and she taught me that quantity, no matter how measured by any means, can never account for the slightest love. And mine for her right now is massive.
Under any circumstances, we must not continue the wars began in her name and in the names of those countless and uncountable who surely left broken hearts and souls to mourn here on Earth.
And we must not start more war. No more bombs. Never in the name of peace.
On 9/11/2013, a dozen years post, let us surprise ourselves. Let us choose kindness and peace and remember that we are here to experience the joys of touching with our bodies other bodies. We destroy that to what unquantifiable end? To what matter of destruction of our souls?
Follow Donna Marsh O'Connor on Twitter: www.twitter.com/DonnaPea