Kinfolk

Richard Skinner

Eighteen years ago today. Actually just about eighteen years ago to the minute, as I sit down to write this.

I had flipped on the television to see what the weather was going to be like; we sometimes have our summer rains well into September.

Standing there. Standing there. Flames roaring out of the side of a skyscraper. Hearing voices on the television, but not comprehending them. Then a plane comes into the frame and rams straight into the other
skyscraper.

That finally shocks me out of that disbelieving space, the this cannot be real, must be the wrong channel, this is a movie space.

Walk out the front door. I’m the only one home, getting ready for work, but I don’t remember to lock it behind me. Get in the car; drive around the corner and up the street, meeting the wife as she is walking back from
taking the two youngest to school.

Slam the brakes on, roll down the window. Scream out of it for her to GET IN! THE BASTARDS JUST ATTACKED US!

*****

Okay, my story is not much different than the stories of anyone in this country (and some others) that are old enough to remember that day, that terrible day. But, of all of those stories, the stories that differ in a
million details, there is one absolutely common thread for Americans, wherever they were, whatever they were doing. THE BASTARDS JUST ATTACKED US!

Not “just attacked New York.” Not “just attacked those rich elitists in their cushy offices.” Attacked US. Attacked OUR kinfolk, OUR brothers, OUR sisters, OUR children — OUR shared nation.

This is what should be remembered most, now, after the horror, the grief, the hot rage has passed for the majority of us. (Not for all; there are still families grieving their lost ones, there are still families watching
their beloveds die from the aftermath.) WE were attacked. ALL of us were attacked.

There are serious divisions in our country today. There have always been serious divisions in our country. But when we are challenged by disaster, whether it is by the evil of those who hate us, or the uncaring of
nature, those differences, for most of us, are burned away by the flames, washed away by the floods.

Myself, I’m a “flyover.” A “deplorable.” A “Trumpkin” (although I didn’t vote for him in the primaries). But I am an American. I remember that the “coasties,” the “snowflakes,” the “woke” — the vast majority of you
are Americans. The walkers in New York that ran away from the boiling wall of concrete, glass, and smoke as the towers came down — and then, pulling their chic shirts over their mouth and nose, ran back into
the settling mess to help those who didn’t run quite so fast, or had too far to go. The boat captains on the East River that cast off and ferried hundreds of people to safety, without regard to any “rules” that got in the
way of doing as much as they possibly could. The firefighters and cops — good union members all — who ran into the buildings, up the stairways, to get the people out — and died with them when time ran out.

You are my kinfolk. Whether you like to admit it or not, I am your kinfolk. Kinfolk don’t have to especially like each other. We can have different ideas about… just about everything. But we are there for each
other when the carp hits the fan.

I implore you, my kinfolk — whether I like you or not, whether you like me or not — remember that day. That terrible day. That glorious day. Never forget. Never allow those who would split our kin into warring
tribes to succeed.

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