I just wanted to share with you the best thing I read about 9/11 in its aftermath. It is from the Onion. As you may know, the Onion often features language people around here find offensive. So I’m going to post a link to the original article, and the 9/11 edition, but I’m also going to post the text of the article (which contains no offensive language) here. I can’t attribute it, unfortunately, because I don’t know who wrote it. Please don’t sue me.
Not Knowing What Else To Do, Woman Bakes American-Flag Cake
SEPTEMBER 26, 2001 | ISSUE 37•34
TOPEKA, KS—Feeling helpless in the wake of the horrible Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that killed thousands, Christine Pearson baked a cake and decorated it like an American flag Monday.
“I had to do something to force myself away from the TV,” said Pearson, 33, carefully laying rows of strawberry slices on the white-fudge-frosting-covered cake. “All of those people. Those poor people. I don’t know what else to do.”
Pearson, who had never before expressed feelings of patriotism in cake form, attributed the baking project to a loss of direction. Having already donated blood, mailed a check to the Red Cross, and sent a letter of thanks to the New York Fire Department, Pearson was aimlessly wandering from room to room in her apartment when the idea of creating the confectionery stars and stripes came to her.
“My friends Cassie and Patrick [Overstreet] invited me over to have dinner and just talk about, you know, everything,” said Pearson, a Topeka legal secretary who has never visited and knows no one in either New York or Washington, D.C. “I thought I’d make something special or do something out of respect for all of the people who died. All those innocent people. All those rescue workers who lost their lives.”
Mixing the cake and placing it in the oven shortly after 3 p.m., Pearson sat at the kitchen table and stared at the oven door until the timer rang 50 minutes later.
As the cake cooled, Pearson gathered materials to decorate it. She searched the spice cupboard for a half-used tube of blue food coloring, but could not find it. After frantically pulling all the cans and jars from the cupboard, she finally found the tube in the very back. Emitting a deep sigh of relief, she spread the coloring over the cake’s upper-left-hand corner to create the flag’s blue field.
“I baked a cake,” said Pearson, shrugging her shoulders and forcing a smile as she unveiled the dessert in the Overstreet household later that evening. “I made it into a flag.”
Pearson and the Overstreets stared at the cake in silence for nearly a minute, until Cassie hugged Pearson.
“It’s beautiful,” Cassie said. “The cake is beautiful.”
I think that the reason this was so powerful for me is because I felt so much like the woman in this article. I didn’t know anyone who died that day. I had no-one to grieve, but a great need to do it. I did what I could, but it all felt so inadequate. I remember thinking that I ought to live a better life. I don’t think I have.
So, on the anniversary, I’m thinking that again. It shouldn’t require trauma to motivate us to personal improvement, but it often does. Like Kyle says, the macro-pride cycle is everywhere evident. I don’t think that the people on 9/11 died to serve some greater cause. They died because evil and deluded men killed them, manipulated by other evil and deluded men. Still I feel like, continuing in my petty ways, rummaging through my petty concerns, I have failed them, a group of people who never knew me at all.
However, as Kyle also pointed out, it wasn’t solely an evil day. People sacrificed to save strangers. The US and the whole world were briefly united. We rebuilt and will rebuild again if necessary. Here is a poem From Emily Dickinson, for the cake that appears in the midst of the chaos. There is always something that we can do; may you also find it.
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune–without the words,
And never stops at all,
And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.
I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.