Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Years Ago Today

During the summer of 2001, I was Production Manager for the Summer Repertory Theatre at the Junior College - a 'full-full' time job.  By early September I was back at Sonoma State, finishing up my BA in Theatre Arts.  During the evenings I was directing a play called STOP KISS, at the Actors Theatre of Sonoma County. 

The play was scheduled to preview on 9/12/01, and open on 9/15/01. 

STOP KISS, by Diana Son, is the story of two young New Yorkers whose friendship blossoms into love, and whose love is tested when they are attacked in a New York park.   

My actors were marvelous.  We became totally immersed in all-things-New-York, all-things-hate-crime, and a result of several weeks of research and nightly rehearsals. 

The morning of 9-11, I was up early.  As usual, I turned on my computer....and immediately saw that a plane had hit the World Trade Center.  I left the computer and turned on the TV.  Watched, horrified.  Seeing the buildings fall was a visceral shock.  I cried, and prayed.

Later that day I called my cast and crew, to see if they still wanted to meet for our final rehearsal, and if they still wanted to hold the Preview performance.  Everyone wanted to be together. 

Theatre is like that.  Every play you work becomes a village, of sorts.  This play was our New York village, and we stuck together.  We told stories and laughed.  We hugged and cried.  We worked hard to make the production as wonderful as it could be. 

Surprisingly, we had a nearly full house for the preview on 9/12.  The audience laughed, and cried, and gave the actors a standing ovation.  My heart was filled with hope.

But my youngest son, who was going to turn 18 in a couple of weeks, talked of "signing up."  The President talked, constantly, about hatred and threats, war and revenge.  The boys became restless. 

And I understood.  Or I tried to.  I "signed up"...for the Red Cross.  I went to a couple of introductory classes, and tried to figure out how to get on a "Red Cross Team" but they never did call me in.  No "action," for me. 

Here is a copy of an email I wrote to a good friend, after STOP KISS opened:

"When I was growing up in Catholic schools, I learned about "miracles" - saintly visits from the Virgin Mary, in Fatima, in Lourdes - and I remember Her predictions.  "War generating in the Middle East will lead to the Apocalypse."  But I shake it off.  Now is not the time to think about old penguins and their tall tales, is it?

I am certain about only one thing:  The idea of sending boys into battle....teaching them to kill, and sending them into battle....makes my blood run cold.  I believe my three sons would have an extremely difficult if not impossible time, coming to terms with the horror of causing someone else to die.  Or watching a buddy die.  They are intelligent, sensitive young men who seem to care deeply about family and friends.  Their activities are more cerebral than physical.  None of them played sports beyond middle school soccer.  They haven't ever gone hunting.  They don't even kill spiders.  They catch them with a cup and a piece of cardboard, and 'set them free' outside. 

They grew up in Santa Rosa and are innocent, and soft.  Their biggest challenge, so far, has been getting through our divorce.  Getting through high school, surviving a couple of relationships gone sour, and finding a job.  It seems to me that their greatest joy has been found in developing friendships, and exploring the infinite possibilities of books, music and artistic expression. 

They're very similar to countless other suburban boys....

I lost a few Southern California friends to the Vietnam War.  I've seen the ravages of war etched into the faces of the boys I grew up with.  Some of the boys I dated were well and truly wrecked by Vietnam.  I've seen how war causes fear and despair.  War is killing....wholesale killing....and masses of innocent bystanders are always hurt.  Always. 

In my heart, I understand the need to "protect the Land of the Free"....but.....

War is suspicion and dread and constant surveillance.  War is anger and distrust and revenge.  War looks for people to accuse, and for ways to kill them. 

If only we could teach our boys to forgive, and to HEAL.  If only we could send our boys into conflicts as Healers...."

And I still wish that today - ten years later, while our boys fight two overwhelmingly endless and complicated wars in the Middle East....killing, killing, killing.

As a nation, we've learned how to "tighten security" - but I wish we could learn how to HEAL.  As our leaders argue, argue, argue over who has power.  As our leaders seem to keep taking from the poor, and coddling the rich.  We need to heal.  Sometimes it seems to me that the closest we've come to healing, as a result of 9/11, is learning how to build a better tall building.   Is that true?  Can that really be true?   Surely we've learned more than that....


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