By Chalet Jean-Baptiste
In these perilous times, we have become too close to danger. It has affected our community, neighbors, friends, and families.
On Sept. 11, 2001, I remember a beautiful, sunny day and how quickly it changed. At the time, I was living in Brooklyn, N.Y., and was getting ready for work when a news flash went across the TV screen. A plane had flown into a building, and I remember thinking this must have been a spoof. I grabbed my bags and went on the next 4 train headed to midtown Manhattan. Not even 10 minutes had gone by when the conductor announced that due to terroristic activities we would have to exit the train. All mass transit was closed until further notice.
When I departed the train in lower Manhattan, it was like something out of a movie. People were covered in white debris, screaming and running for their lives. I scurried to ask someone what was happening and the first reply was, "They attacked the Twin Towers and the Pentagon." I wondered who would do such a thing and why would they attack others in this manner?
I walked in 4-inch heels 20 long blocks to the Upper East Side of Manhatta, where I would be greeted by shocked and perplexed faces of my colleagues. We were all devastated. Unfortunately, this devastation did not end with September 11th. For weeks and months following the attack, we were inundated with news reports of loss and grief, missing flyers posted all over the city, and, usually, carefree New Yorkers piercing each other's stares with the unanswered "Why?"
The truth is that no one really knows why people act like this. The recent example is the shootings and bombings in Boston. Holocaust survivor and author Elie Wiesel tries to explain it in his article, "How Can We Understand Their Hatred?" When he talks about fanaticism dating to ancient times and the effects it still has on our society, I would think that this may be a great theoretical answer to a more complicated problem. I would like to ask deeper questions. For example, at what point does the human mind begin to transform and process the lack of recognition of the humanity in others? How does someone become so animalistic that the gift of life and human experience become something sacrificial?
Last week, my husband and I went to go see the movie "Olympus Has Fallen." This action-packed film had me on the edge of my seat from beginning to end. Of course, by the time the movie was over, all the theatre-goers had become "Americanites," extreme patriots praying and rooting for America. However, in all seriousness, we could not help but think about how terrorism has seemed to hit an all-time high in America. And, the truth is, no one ever really wins in a war.
Reality shows like the National Geographic's "Doomsday Preppers" and a personal friend constantly remind me about the doom-and-gloom of America and keep me ever so vigilant and aware of our dangers. There are some things that life sends our way that no one can ever prepare or plan for. Sept. 11, 2001 and the recent Boston bombings are perfect examples of this.
As humans, we can only control what has become Olympuses in our everyday lives. What is the one central thing that erodes or enhances our humanity? Has something taken over us to the point that it could bring us to our knees? Are there experiences that have defined who we are? Have these experiences helped to make or break us? What we choose to make "gods" in our lives will determine the direction of our lives. In the face of treacherous times, I will pray without ceasing, love like it's going out of style, and try to live each day like it's my last.
Chalet Jean-Baptiste is an assistant professor of English at the Manassas campus of Northern Virginia Community College. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.