Unleashing the Peace Lioness

In the fall of 2001, my children were eleven and eight years old. Bright and playful, they unknowingly became my teachers in the art of loving life. My son was fascinated with bugs, bikes, and explorations; my daughter loved lizards and swimming and climbing trees. We read every night at bedtime and on quiet breaks throughout the day. In September of 2001, our new school year had just begun; the children were excited, loved their start-of-school swag, liked their new teachers, and for the time-being, got up easily in the morning. I was finally finding my feet in my separation from their father, who lived just across town. Our rift had been horribly painful, and I constantly worried about how my children might be suffering. Their father and I communicated about school activities and AYSO soccer, we threw birthdays and holidays in cooperation with one another, and tried to minimize the stress our divorce would have on the children. I had begun to feel like I could handle our new life.

On the sunny California morning of 11 September 2001, we munched toast and packed lunches, still filled with enthusiasm in our second week of the school year. During breakfast, their father called and asked if I had the television on. He said that planes had flown into the twin towers and the pentagon. Quietly, I went over to our small portable television and switched it on with the sound down low. The contrast between the tender sweetness of our morning and the horror of the sights and sounds coming through the television seemed impossible and unreal. Fear flashed through me. Foremost, I wondered how to keep my children safe. I felt immediate apprehension for their future and remorse in my separation from their dad. Then I felt what I call my “Lioness-Mom” rising up to take charge. I called the schools, got instructions, and then I had a talk with the children about what was happening, in very simple terms. I stayed calmer than I would have imagined I could, and I felt my main duty was to guide and shelter them.

September 11 pulled my brand-new rose-colored glasses off of my tentative, recovering face, but it also set free in me the protector I had always wanted. The future looked clouded, bodies thudded onto the streets and cars around the twin towers, apocalyptic ash choked and floated around the first-responders, and the frightening news kept pouring in. I watched as the towers came down, watched the country galvanize in love and support for New York City and Washington, DC, saw our lovely American Flag streaming from overpasses and behind fire engines, and I saw my future with what Michael Meade calls a “darkened wisdom.” In the moment of that second plane’s impact on the second tower, I felt more deeply than ever my responsibility to all of the next generations – not just my own children. In the months and years after that awful day, I became more involved in human rights, increased my already ongoing learning about world cultures, and found my way to Pacifica via its wonderful Public Program, The World Behind the World, in April of 2002.

At that amazing conference, I heard Hendrika DeVries tell about living in Amsterdam during World War II and how her mother had sheltered people from the Nazis. She shared with us the words that her mother had said to her at that time, words that have stuck in my brain and heart ever since, and which I carry within me as the lesson of 9/11: “We are not one of us safe, until all of us are safe.” This is the darkened wisdom the leaders of our world need, and I know that Pacifica’s presence in the world is helping this to happen through both programs like this one and the absolutely amazing work our alumni are doing all over the world; Animae Mundi, Colendae Gratia.

Beth Anne Boardman, PhD
Mythological Studies 2012