So, the thing is...  September 11, 2001

The thing is, I don't know what to say.

My column this week was going to be all about how hard some things are to explain. I was going to start with telling you about our recent trip to the library to find books about volcanoes. And then I was going to tell you about a simply amazing conversation my three-year-old Ana and I had about God. Someday, I'll still tell you about it.

Like most of the rest of the country, we spent yesterday glued to the television and the computer, tracking down our friends in New York and Washington, D.C. and trying to make sense of the incomprehensible. Trying to find words to explain our sense of horror and fragility; our need for comfort and our outrage at something so unspeakable and bloody. And trying to explain evil to our three-year-old when we couldn't even fathom the depth of carnage we were witnessing.

And I botched my explanations to Ana because I didn't have time to prepare my words or think anything through. She grew increasingly stressed throughout the day, which manifested itself by some very unusual acting out and resulted in an early bedtime and a mean mommy who would only read ONE story. What she needed was comfort and routine and normalcy. I didn't have it to give to her. Chalk another small victory up for the terrorists.

This morning, I found myself up at five, unable to stop my brain from replaying the visual of the plane flying into the second tower. I still can't comprehend it. And now the numbers are flying --1,400 feared dead in New York, 800 in Washington, D.C. --could be as many as twice that.

Since I became a mother, I can't even think in terms of those kinds of numbers of victims. All I can think is that every single person had a story. Every single person lost was once held by a parent, was loved by someone, ate ice cream on a hot day. Loved someone or something. Dreamed of a better life, as is the birthright of those of us fortunate enough to live in this country.

I try to remember that good will still happen. Somewhere in New York City right now, there's a baby being born. Somewhere, there is a life being saved. Somehow, in the midst of this tragedy, people are reaching deep within themselves. There will be stories of courageous and heroic acts; of people who risked everything to make something good happen. No act of terrorism can stop that. Ultimately, evil will never win over the collective human spirit.

As for me, I'm going to make Ana's lunch and cut her sandwich into a star shape. I'm going to take her to pre-school and then Jane and I are going to the grocery store because we are out of milk. I am going to sing to my children and read them stories and roll around on the floor and play peek-a-boo and hide and seek. I am going to let other people into my lane and I am going to smile at the grocery clerks. I will donate blood and anything else that can be useful. I will not let those monsters rob us of finding the good in today. I will make good happen.

I will find the good in today and I will make good happen.


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(c) Barbara Cooper 2001

Barbara Cooper is the mother of Ana (3) and Jane (eleven months). She lives in Austin, Texas.