Sunday, September 11, 2011

Where Were You On 9/11?

Painting by: Michael Perez

There is so much to be said about September 11, 2001 and so much that surely will be said today as we somberly remember that terrifying day. This isn’t going to be a long post. I just want to take some time to remember where I was ten years ago and how that day still affects me today.

2001 I was a freshman in high school. I remember walking into my 2nd period Spanish class and seeing that the TV was already on. My Spanish teacher was visibly upset and I remember not fully understanding what was wrong or why she was stammering to us that class would be a free period while gluing her eyes to said TV. 

Painting by G.G.
The tower had already been hit and I can honestly confess that I had no idea what that meant. I was a 14 year old immigrant who didn’t even have her citizenship at that point. I had heard about the world trade center vaguely through some Olsen twin’s movie and I had no idea it’s size and the prospective scope of lives lost that would occur before my eyes. In just 5 minutes, I was listening to a news anchor on the spot talk about evacuations and then the camera swiveled and I watched as the 1st tower collapsed like deck of cards and the other quickly followed.

My freshman year I went to a predominantly black school and I remember that by 4th period every white child had been picked up by their parent while I went through the day without a clue what exactly was happening or what it meant. It wasn’t until later, after  I had ridden the bus home and watched the news, that I really grasped the seriousness of the situation. I watched those desperate people leap from the glass towers to their death and I watched those buildings fall over and over in a loop and I broke down. I cried like a citizen of the United States.

Later CNN taught me some new words: jihad and terrorist. I had never heard those words in my life before. And if I had heard terrorist, it was in a completely different context.

Almost ten years later, during my final year of college, I took a required senior seminar, “Islam in the West”. That was the first time I ever read Bin Laden’s open response to 9/11. I read his complete manifesto and heard him boast and rationalize the killing of all those Americans and it sickened me. I hated him, and for about tem minutes, I hated every Arab, Persian, African, Asian, etc who subscribed to the Islamic religion. I wanted them erased off of the earth. The world, I thought, would be better without them.

Hatred in strange, the way it seizes you up like that. One single human being writes something incendiary and hurtful and suddenly you want millions of people dead. Like I said, it was short lived. Fortunately, I am a member of the few higher functioning human beings who aren’t ruled by their emotions. Although the man was evil incarnate, the Koran itself basically never mentions violence. You take a few rich people and a bevy of the uneducated disenfranchised poor and you have a recipe for disaster. Find a target, say the US, and imbue the poor with hatred and a purpose, add a layer of religion to the mix and you’ve got hatred on a stick.
So, this tenth anniversary, on top of remembering that day and paying homage to all the lives lost, I’m thinking about all the lessons learned from that day. Not so I can depress myself. No, just like slavery, the cold war, and the holocaust, 9/11 is something we need to collectively brand into our memories. We need to constantly check ourselves so that we never forget the extent of pain that hatred and radicalism causes.

Where were you on 9/11/2001?


Kham said...

I was in Ms. DosSantos 8th grade homeroom class and all of a sudden she put on the tv, she screamed and was hysterical. The first plane hit the tower and we still had no idea what was going on. When we found out that hijackers hit the Twin Towers I remember thinking I had never even heard of the World Trade Center (sad but true, but I was only 11 and didn't know about much frankly)... It's still crazy to me to think back to that time and now that I live in NY it feels more real than it did back in 2011.

Lish said...

Thank you Kham. How are things in NY btw. Any memorials. How's the mood? If I lived in NY I would probably visit ground zero...but maybe not. I'd probably be too sad.