Today, November 17, is supposedly World Peace Day, but November of 2015 has been anything but peaceful. The month began with the news of a Russian airliner with 224 passengers and crew, including at least 24 children, which crashed on its way to St Petersburg from Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheikh resort. On November 12, suicide bombers killed 43 people in Beirut, Lebanon. And the next day, in coordinated attacks in Paris, 137 people were killed.
ISIS or ISEL or IS or more recently Daesh, all versions of the same terrorist organization, proudly claims responsibility for these attacks. So no. Not so much peace today.
My husband and I were vacationing in New York when the attacks took place in Beirut and Paris. Our first stop was a visit to the 9/11 Memorial on November 12. This was probably the only place we saw on our trip that did not require a guidebook. We didn’t have to read the plaques describing what had happened. We remembered every detail as if it had happened yesterday.
Ironically, the day of our visit was beautiful, much like the morning of 9/11/2001 when our world changed and peace no longer seemed possible. I remember the reaction to the day the towers fell. At first, we felt patriotic and unified, proud and strong. We attended rallies and sang God Bless America. And then we were afraid. Very afraid.
Going on an airplane became an ordeal. Threat levels never dipped below orange and sometimes were red. You could no longer bring backpacks into public places. Schools had to initiate risk management plans, complete with ways to both evacuate and shelter in place, depending on which was the safer option. Innocent people were maimed and killed at the Boston Marathon.
Yes, I remember other times of great fear. The nuclear arms race of my childhood where I hid under my desk during drills of what to do if the Russians attacked. The Cuban Missile Crisis when we thought war was eminent. The turbulent years of the Viet Nam War, accompanied by constant unrest at home. While some eras have felt more peaceful than others, this may have been an illusion. I was preoccupied with the daily stuff of life and raising young children.
Yesterday, I overheard some school children talking about what happened in Paris while they were waiting for their dance class to begin. I was struck by how matter of fact they seemed to be. One even said she was tired of hearing about it. After the class, I asked my nine-year-old granddaughter what she knew about the attack. Did they talk about it in school?
Nor really, she replied. The teacher didn’t say anything but a couple of kids put pictures of the Eifel Tower on their lockers. She thought bad people killed a bunch of people but she had no idea why. Maybe because the bad people were poor?
The current state of upheaval is really hard to grasp, let alone explain to a child. You might want to check out a piece by fellow ChicagoNow blogger Sheila Quirke, AKA Mary Tyler Mom. She echoes the confusion most of us feel about the current threat to our unattainable goal of world peace. Her link to the article in The Atlantic, What ISIS Really Wants, is really helpful in understanding the current crisis.
The day after the Paris attacks, we were still in New York and went to Central Park. I wanted to see Strawberry Fields and pay homage to John Lennon. It seemed like a good place to be after the horrific news that I couldn’t stop thinking about. But as I looked at the marker and the Imagine mosaic, all I could think about was how we seem to be unable to “give peace a chance.”
World Peace Day was started by Don Morris of Miami Florida around 1997. There is also an International Peace Day in September, but perhaps this second day to ponder the concept of world peace was created because of its proximity to Thanksgiving.
John Lennon asked us to “Imagine all the people…Living life in peace…Sharing all the world…” Imagine.
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