I”ve always had a fear of flying. I hate the feeling of being out of control, so high up in the air with no way out. I”ve always been a little scared of going to the top of tall buildings nervous that on my way to the top something terrible may happen. There was no particular cause for these fears I had convinced myself that they were rational. But today, more than a week after the terrorist attacks on the United States, these fears have been validated and along with them come a new sense of dread. One that has overcome my peers, my family, the entire nation surrounding all of us as we sit glued to CNN, scrambling for newspapers, waiting for answers. Are we waiting for a signal that is going to tell us not be afraid of going to work, flying home to our families, getting on with our lives? I keep asking myself over and over “what”s next?” and when can I resume having little fears instead of the greatest fear of all the unknown?
The attacks on Sept. 11 have affected us all because not only did they bring down our nation”s symbols of strength and power, they brought down with them the sense of security that we all had before that fateful day.
Being from New York, I never thought that I would look at images on the television of my bustling city looking like a battle zone I would only see in images of countries far from the U.S. I never thought that I would have to worry about my father going to work each day, passing through landmarks like Grand Central Station, working at Madison Square Garden. But now, like so many of us I find myself trying to determine what the next target will be.
This sense of insecurity about what is to come and where it will come from leaves us all afraid. When I see the images of the hijackers on television, calmly walking onto their flight under the watchful eye of security cameras, photos of them at their local health clubs where they supposedly learned how to fight hand to hand combat I keep thinking how “normal” these people looked. I can see how they could have slipped through the cracks of loose security at an airport, or how they could have infiltrated themselves into our society with ease. We”ve been told by all the experts that there are more people like this living among us. But this new unknown enemy will not be easy to find. We can”t commit ourselves to a new kind of racial profiling and we can”t second guess everyone we come in contact with. Is our new lifestyle going to be one where we constantly have to be looking over our shoulders?
Americans everywhere are waiting for our nation to strike back. But as we wait for the next step we have to come to terms with the fact that this will be a new war. It won”t be like the wars we”ve learned about in our history class, or heard our parents discuss. We aren”t fighting against an enemy who will be playing by the rules, as we have already seen by the first acts of evil. This plunge into a new era that will undoubtedly change our sense of freedom as a nation is scary because to me it is incomprehensible.
I can sense the fear in everyone”s voice when they talk about what has happened or what is to come. I can hear it in the students who sit around me as I study at Starbucks, or the girls in back of me in my lecture hall. I can sense it when I talk to my family, as they try to explain the unexplainable to their “little girl” far away from home. I saw it when I watched David Letterman”s first television broadcast since after the attacks his voice cracking as he commended the brave rescue workers and citizens helping in New York and around the country. And I saw that every human”s emotion has been touched by this incident as I watched Dan Rather, on that very same broadcast break down in tears twice. It”s almost impossible not to show signs of sadness, fear, anger emotions that have hit us all because those who we lost in the attacks are people just like us. And we all may be thinking could I be next?
It”s hard to even know what to say at this point, only a short while after this upheaval of our lives has begun. We all have to wait and see what happens next. But there is no doubt that things that may have seemed important in our personal lives, our political culture, and the society we are so used to may not deem as significant today as we wait for the next step in what is sure to be a long series of answering the question: “What”s next?”
Rebecca Isenberg can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.