On September 11, 2001, I taught an early morning yoga class at my studio in Spokane, Washington. It was the second class in a new series. I lived across town and on my drive I heard a confused early report of a plane crashing into the World Trade Center. I had never been to New York City, so I couldn’t picture the destruction clearly. It was breaking news and the reports were still confusing, shock and panic filling the airwaves quicker than actual information.
The class was one hour and fifteen minutes long. During that span, the second plane hit. By the time I got in my car to drive home, the world had changed.
I listened to NPR as I drove. It was still very early on the West Coast. Morning commuters hadn’t all hit the road yet. Perhaps, that day, they wouldn’t. A few blocks from my studio I saw a lone woman struggling to wave an American flag twice her size in a ditch near the side of a busy intersection.
It was utterly beautiful.
In the days, weeks and months to come, Stars and Stripes would be plastered everywhere, including tacky plastic versions to fit on car windows. What was first a genuine symbol of patriotism morphed into what seemed to me an aggresive sign of anger, hate and hostitility.
I know that many people hung flags out of their deep love of country and as a symbol of solidarity and respect. Unfortunately, many people spewed intolerance, contradicted the founding principles of America and perverted patriotism into a divisive political weapon. I came to dread seeing our country’s flag. I found myself taking a deep breath and bracing for impact when I saw one displayed.
That first flag I saw made me cry; it was waved out of sadness, but it was not sad.
It was strength and it was beautiful.
Eventually the excessive, aggressive flag-waving dissipated as cheap flags disintigrated and were not replaced. I saw more flags than before September 11, 2001, but they rang of patriotism again. I didn’t think much of it until the morning I learned Osama bin Laden was killed.
On my way home from errands, I drove by my dream house. I take this detour often. My two sons were in the their carseats, fist-pumping like I taught them, to dance music I blared from the radio. I turned my car and careened my head to scope out our future home (I hope) as we passed. What do you think I saw?
Good ol’ Stars and Stripes.
This house never displays a flag. Believe me, as a real estate stalker, I would know.
This flag certainly could have been hung with a hateful spirit. I have no idea. But for me, I remembered the first flag I saw after Osama bin Laden’s terrorist attack succeeded in changing the landscape of not only New York City, but the entire world.
The world is still changed. We cannot go backwards, but a circle completed, and
our flag was still there.