Yesterday I looked out at San Francisco bay, a beautiful body of water I can see from my window. I remember on the morning of 9/11 looking in the same direction warily. One of the hijacked planes had been scheduled to land in San Francisco. For the first time in my life I experienced what so many civilians have suffered for over a hundred years. There was nowhere to run. No way to protect my daughter, my grandchildren. One understands from such an experience why they call it "raw" fear.
The light on the water yesterday was exquisite, that kind of piercing beauty which opens your soul. I had just come upstairs from reading headlines which reflected the determination of the current White House to attack Iraq. Three thousand missiles in two days. The attack on 9/11 that involved four big hijacked airplanes was called terrorism. This plan is called "Shock and Awe".
Awe is what I felt looking at the light on the water, the kind of awe which makes you momentarily larger than yourself. And in this mood the thought of the shock that is being planned for Iraqi civilians – unarmed men, women with children, infants, patients in hospitals, grandfathers, great-grandmothers – was unbearable.
If I felt there was nowhere to hide myself on 9/11, now I feel there is no way to hide my soul. Let it end now, this cycle of violence in which always, always, civilians become the major targets, the ones who suffer most. I could have been born in Iraq as easily as I was born here. And had I been born there, would I cherish my family, my life, my friends, my city, my livelihood, the landscape around me, my country any less than I do now? Let us all, we civilians, who have been made targets of missiles and chemical weapons and hijacked planes and crazy suicide missions, and smart and not so smart bombs hold hands now across space, across the thousands of miles that the warships and missiles and perhaps terrorists of other kinds are travelling now. Let us hold hands and pray and sing out and speak out now for our right to live in peace.
© Susan Griffin 2003
Originally published as part of a debate on 6th February 2003 Writers, artists and civic leaders on the War: Pt. II