Tragedy, especially global tragedy, truly has an effect on a country’s population. I remember growing up hearing stories of people recalling exactly where they were and what they were doing when they got the news that JFK had been shot. My parents, grandparents and all of their friends would describe the day in great detail. Some even welled up with sorrow as if he were a close friend, as if it had happened only yesterday. I never understood this concept and thought it was ridiculous until the global tragedy of my generation happened. September 11th.
I have only been called to jury duty twice in my life. The first time I was dismissed before ten o’clock in the morning. That day was the best. I was excused from work with pay and spent the rest of a beautiful June day at the beach. My second time being called to jury duty was the polar opposite. It was the day that holds a vivid image in my mind. I can recall every waking moment of that day just like it was yesterday.
The weather was gorgeous. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Although it was September and fall was looming, it felt more like spring. I remember feeling sorry for myself because I was going to sit around in a dreary courthouse all day. I remember having a little pity party for myself because I wasn’t going to be around to get my Kindergartener on and off the bus. It was so upsetting. It was only his first week of “big boy school” and he was having trouble adjusting to new people and new friends. I needed to be there yet I also knew that getting out of jury duty took some real finagling and I could never lie about why I couldn’t be there. After all, it was my civic duty.
I entered the court house a bit nervous. To me, this was the city, a place where I was always uncomfortable, no less having to factor in criminals. I was uneasy. Metal detectors screeched in alarm every so often, shifty-looking people were coming and going, and there was an echo reverberating throughout the building. The pool of jurors was shuffled in to a long corridor in the basement where we were to wait for further instruction.
Our further instruction came just moments later when a frantic looking court officer asked us to step into a large conference room where we were going to be able to watch some breaking news events unfolding on television. I was very confused and didn’t understand if it had something to do with one of the cases we were going to hear. Just as my eyes found the small thirteen inch television in the corner, the second plane hit. It was surreal. Still confused, just as confused as everyone around me, the newscasters tried their best to stay composed and share with our nation what they could gather. Finally, twenty five minutes later, the President confirmed it was a terrorist attack as he stood in front of hundreds of elementary school students inside a school in Florida. Those twenty five minutes waiting for confirmation of the speculation that was flying on every news channel seemed like an eternity. I sat silently waiting, holding my breath, waiting for the next life changing moment to happen.
My rare request to fulfill this civic duty was a small price to pay for being able to be an American, affording me all the rights and freedoms that I am so lucky to have. That day, so many people were not as fortunate to be Americans, targeted as a whole population by a group with such hate inside of them.
Terrorism? Confirmation of terrorism and here I sit in a Federal Courthouse. Am I safe? Are federal buildings all going to be the next target? Let me the hell out of here! I was frightened, wondering where my husband was working that day, wondering if my children were safe, wondering what, if anything, my kids had seen or heard. Our lives as we knew it did not feel secure any more. Our safe American soil had been spoiled.
Close to ten thirty, they finally let us go. They let us go without very little conversation, only letting us know that we would receive formal compliance paperwork in the mail. Who cares? There may not be a judicial system left after today, let me out of here!
I was able to get my child off the bus that day. I remember seeing his huge grin as he stepped off the bus. He was so surprised to see me getting him after I had specifically given him instructions on going with the neighbor. If the alternative would have been for me to stay at jury duty and America would have remained unchanged from the day before, I would have given up getting my child off the bus for that one day.