Paradise Rediscovered

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Everything has changed. It seems like years ago, though it has been only days, that we were glib about our freedoms and lifestyle. We took it all for granted, and often that included each other.

October 01, 2001

 

Dean Horowitz, Publisher

Everything has changed. It seems like years ago, though it has been only days, that we were glib about our freedoms and lifestyle. We took it all for granted, and often that included each other.

Minutes after a group embracing evil carried out some of its deeds, new heroes came to the forefront demonstrating the best human qualities. They were heroes before the evil occurred, but we rarely recognized them as such. The bravery, the tenacity and the best of human traits will not be taken for granted again.

On Sept. 11, I was a plane flight away from my family. Like so many others, I abandoned the usual form of fast transportation for a low-tech, 19-hour train ride back home. Others rented cars and drove across country. Groups of strangers rented vans and buses and headed homeward together. Strangers became friends, united around a common goal and in a common grief.

On my ride, I witnessed instances of extraordinary beauty and discovery. As the train left Market Street Station in Philadelphia, discussions focused on how uncomfortable the long trip would be, the stiff seats, the lack of storage space and the bar car’s being emptied by the previous day’s passengers. Then, quietly, images of our nation passed by and a deeper love for our country’s landscape than previously imagined was formed. The mountains, lakes, farms, cities and yes, of course, the homes passed by our eyes, and all of it was extraordinary. A landscape mixed with nature’s beauty and man’s achievement. It wasn’t about the idea of America but instead that idea’s achievements. Someone said it is amazing how much our nation has accomplished in 200 years. Another wondered where our social experiment is now headed.

Everyone was polite and, over time, shared personal stories about family and friends who had decided not to go into work Sept. 11 or had somehow made it out of a burning building.

Across from me were two very quiet women who did not participate in much conversation. As the train pulled into its final destination, we learned they were flight attendants and really didn’t want to talk about the week’s events. Like the rest of us, they just wanted to get home.

We are at a historic point in time. No one seems to know what the coming days will bring. Will innocence exist for our children? Where is our economy headed? Is the business we are in today the same one we will be in tomorrow? Will anything ever be the same again?

While confidence in our nation’s future is apparent everywhere, we struggle with the idea that people exist in this world who do not share any of our values or beliefs. No matter how much footage we watch or coverage we read, we cannot fathom how a human being could fly a plane with human beings into a building containing human beings.

While the nation was full of grief and determined to strike back, I took a train ride across a section of landscape with a group of fellow human beings who in a very common way demonstrated a refusal to allow evil to become commonplace. We listened and really wanted to know about each other. All of us on that train made it back home.

I picked up my car in short-term parking at O’Hare airport. It was one of a few cars in a lot that accommodates thousands. Roadblocks filled the open spots. It was something out of a movie, something so very alien. When I pulled into my driveway, no planes were flying over our house awaiting landing. My kids and I can usually count at least eight. Inside, I did what every American family now does — I kissed my family one by one as they slept and mourned those who didn’t make it home.

No one knows what the coming months will bring, but whatever it might be, its course will be shared by a group of individuals who returned to being a nation when evil unwittingly enabled them to rediscover their version of paradise.

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