this is not the first time I’ve gotten up in Jersey and commuted to my job in the city. it is not the first time I’ve been to the World Trade Center since 9/11, though I avoided going downtown for years. this is the first time that I have commuted via the PATH train through the rebuilt tunnels under the collapse. i will never forget the smell. it didn’t stop filling my nostrils every time I stepped outside until after Thanksgiving. The fires burned for months, our lesson still simmering beneath our feet.
it is not that first anniversary that I have been a mother: last year I was knitting my hushed meditations in Michigan. But it is the first time I have carried my child toward the past and asked him to look.
It is important that we see the world. Ms. Sampson’s quote the other day spoke of the decision to separate ourselves and I have been thinking about how we divide and categorize ourselves, how we make arbitrary separations by the color of skin, by the god we pray to, the languages we learn to express ourselves inside of.
all of us seek to be happy, to be free, to choose our lives, be captains of our own vessels, and our pursuits will produce change, will produce distance between you and others. It is our job to warm the distance, to keep reaching out despite the desire to distract us.
13 years later and I want to cry with how little the world has changed. our sights have been set on a new enemy, but the war is the same. our president has a different face now, one that I voted for and believed could possibly change the direction of this country, but his message of domination, of destruction across the world, of “not tolerating terrorists” remains the same.
america, we have not learned our lesson. I will keep teaching, I will keep speaking, I will keep writing tirelessly, with no audience, because I need to believe that my voice means something. I need to rock myself and my son to sleep at night with the hope of a better world, a vision for peace that is not passive, but that we can be active participants in a world we shape with our hands.
9/11 means immense sadness, followed by a community of new yorkers that I had never experienced before, and will never experience again. It means constant engagement with others in the fight to teach on and teach ourselves into a place of understanding. It means reading and research and understanding america’s role in the middle east as complex, as oppressive, as dominion. It means loss of life, from the folks on the 102nd floor of Tower 1, to the US soldiers deployed to defend our “freedom”, to the Iraqi refugees and Afghani civilians who were killed in our blind pursuit of justice by elimination a shape-shifting enemy.
but it also means recognizing the humanness of each person I meet, speak to, see on the train, pass on the street, see in the news, or never hear about, but has the same goals of respect, of being sustained by life, of living to see 25, of freedom, of passion, of love and direction in an aimless world. It means teaching toward a vision of humanity where empathy is crucial to our daily lesson plan. as many things in my life unravel themselves, I am finding myself in both/and situations instead of either/or, and i am welcoming the shift.