Friday, September 9, 2011

Remembering 9/11

Here in New York, we never forget 9-11. In certain spots, all we have to do is look up to see the void where the towers used to be. And that makes looking back from a 10-year vantage point all the more involving. With memory in mind, I’d like to reprise an editorial I wrote for Gluten-Free Living just after the attack. I hope it helps you look forward with hope for all our futures.

A Word from New York

As many of you know, I’m a New Yorker. I grew up in the Throgs Neck section of the Bronx where, when the weather is clear, you can see the Manhattan skyline from several vantage points.

We New Yorkers are a tough breed. Nothing deters us… or at least nothing did until September 11, 2001. It was the first time in my life that I actually banged my head on the wall.

My fear and frustration were magnified because my brother works (now worked) in a building across the street from the towers and we had no word from him… until late afternoon when he turned up with a horrific story I won’t detail here. And he is one of the lucky ones.

Which would mean I have less reason than others to be angry. I got my brother back. Thousands of people did not get their relatives back. Thousands and thousands.

But I am angry. The towers were still standing when a commentator said, “This is the end of life as we know it.” Like you, I want my life back. I want all those people back.

I want my brother to sleep in peace. I want to drive up the New Jersey turnpike, glimpse the towers over my right shoulder, and know “I’m home.” It was such a comforting feeling that I didn’t appreciate enough when I had it.

This is what we’ve all been doing over and over…talk and talk and talk, as if talking would change the reality. But I write here because there is a gluten-free lesson in this tragedy, a very simple lesson…only three words: It doesn’t matter!

It doesn’t matter that you have to live a gluten-free life. Not in the sense that life is short, but in the sense of priorities. Food is fuel. Even if you live to eat rather than eat to live, food is still fuel.

It doesn’t matter that you have to change your lifestyle. You can, much more easily than you think.
It doesn’t matter that you see danger lurking in all the food around you… hidden toxins that will do you no good. You can work your way around them…in fact, you have to!

It really doesn’t matter that others don’t understand. We need to take care of ourselves. It doesn’t matter that doctor after doctor misdiagnosed you. That’s water under the bridge. It doesn’t matter that food processors seem to have your needs at the bottom of their priority list. The ones at the top benefit everyone, celiacs included.

And, you’ll have to trust me on this, when disaster strikes, it doesn’t matter that you have to follow a gluten-free diet. Everyone suffers in a catastrophe. Everyone has to figure out unique ways to cope. You can… and you will.

It does matter that you keep on trucking. That you stare adversity in the eye, give it your best Bronx cheer, and surmount it. That you help others cope! Boy do I mean that last one. New York is surviving on our American ability to work together. There’s a real lesson here for everyone.

I am writing this a few days after the tragedy and have no idea what might happen between now and when you read this issue. I can only hope it is not worse than what has happened already.

I would not believe that such a thing could happen and that it would hurt so much. That hurt for me will be symbolized by the erasure of the towers from the New York skyline, the elimination of their promise of home and comfort. Without their presence, home will seem much, much farther away.

Ann Whelan

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