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A Mother's Fear
An Essay by Denise Civiletti

audio Listen to Civiletti's essay.

Oct. 22, 2001 -- When I was a little girl growing up in the uncertain times of the Cold War, I believed my parents when they told me this could never happen here. America's shores, at least those of the mainland, survived two world wars unscathed.

I still remember the night in 1962 when the shell cracked. My mother had tears in her eyes as she tucked me into bed that night, worried about Soviet missiles in Cuba. The crisis passed and life went on, but I never forgot the look on her face. For the rest of my life, war remained something that happened only in faraway places, until now.

Since the terrorist attacks, I've thought about how my kids, like all the children in America, have had the luxury of security snatched away forever. I worry about how they will recall their mother's tears on that fateful September morning, not like the few tears my own mother brushed from her cheek on that long-ago night, but the sobbing, convulsing kind. I fear that this is just the beginning of the strange new things to which they will bear witness in the America of their lifetimes.

"For some of these mothers, I thirst for vengeance. For others, I quake in fear. For all of us, I dread what lies ahead."

Denise Civiletti

My dreams now are about other mothers in distant lands living with this reality all their lives. Mothers in Afghanistan who wait for the sound of missiles to screech across the sky, or who pack up their children and attempt to flee. Mothers in Iraq and the Palestinian territories and Israel who quake at the explosions of the bombs that drop on their towns. Mothers of terrorists who, in the name of what is holy and right, embrace evil. Mothers of American soldiers knowing that their sons and daughters may soon be engaged in combat, putting their lives at risk, making the ultimate sacrifice. Mothers of American teen-agers suffering sleepless nights, worrying about their youngster, not behind the wheel of a car, but behind the front lines in a war. Mothers of the men and women who left for work that Tuesday or boarded one of those doomed flights. Children who will never come home again, not even in a casket.

For some of these mothers, I thirst for vengeance. For others, I quake in fear. For all of us, I dread what lies ahead.

Denise Civiletti is a columnist for The News-Review newspaper in Riverhead, New York.