The Breakfast Table

Forever Changed

Dear August:

You’ll be awake in about an hour, and you’ll see the nightmare pictures I’ve just been watching: the World Trade Center up in smoke, the imprint of the stolen small plane smudging the remaining tower. The Pentagon has been hit. The White House, the U.N., the stock market has been closed down. As I write, the TV is talking of a fourth plane heading for Washington. A moment of infamy but an image which even before the story unfolds marks the change of something. We don’t know the hidden political agendas behind so many of the events that have shaped our modern life—Pearl Harbor, the death of Kennedy and King, the Vietnam “conflict.” I had two twin boys who died at birth, and I know in an existential sense that life can change on a dime; I feel now like I did then–something has instantly and inexorably changed in American life. And there is no going back. What is being lost even as the BBC TV reporters try to reach America on the phone lines that have been closed down is—not an innocence (that’s long lost) but a sense of containment and invincibility. Fear will now be our daily bread; and hatred has been given new license. I fear the hysteria and the distortions and the violence which will soon be acted out in all quarters.