Two impossible acts are on my mind as I write this.
The first is the series of devastating terrorist attacks that struck the United States on Tuesday. The second is how we will ever recover from them.
I spent much of Tuesday repeatedly watching footage of United Airlines Flight 175 punching a hole through Two World Trade Center and bursting into flames. The muted, slow-motion footage augmented the impossibility of the event. Nothing is real, I illogically thought, if it happens in slow motion. Compounding the surreal tone were the dozens of political, aviation, trauma and terrorism experts professionally expounding on their respective fields of knowledge, enlightening the ignorant masses.
I did not cry. The terrorist acts still seemed unreal on Wednesday morning television. In stark contrast to the blood and dust covered survivours and rescue workers, eerily well-groomed U.S. morning show hosts interviewed eye witnesses in their climate-controlled, Ethan Allen furnished studios. I watched repeat footage of the towers collapsing and live footage of the rescue efforts at the still-burning Pentagon and the dusty, ashy "ground zero" in New York City. Still, it was not real, and I did not cry.
At least, not until I read the Globe and Mail letters section. There, cutting through the assured voices of news anchors, the measured tones of politicians reading statements and the clinical analysis of experts, came the outrage, sympathy, sorrow and grief of Canadians. The emotions on the page pierced my protective layer of detachment, and I finally cried.
The event became real to me, and the moment it became real, it ceased to be impossible. It was suddenly possible that thousands of innocent people died fiery deaths without knowing who was responsible or why they did it. It was suddenly possible that a group of people existed who had enough disregard for human life to hijack jetliners and crash them into busy office buildings. It was suddenly possible that I had witnessed great evil.
The impossible has happened, and now the world is faced with another seemingly impossible act--recovering. Yet if the first impossible act happened, this one can as well. I turned off the TV this afternoon, went outside and read a book. As it was before Tues., Sept. 11, people still bought iced coffees, buses still rushed by and the afternoon sunlight still shone through the leafy trees. The world might never be the same again, but life endures, and so must we.
We will do the impossible.