Saturday, September 11, 2010

September 11, 2001/ September 11, 2010

September 11, 2001
I wake up and go to work at Oklahoma State University. I teach an organic chemistry class and it doesn't start until 9:30. Before class I always go in my office and put on loud rock music to wake up. I don't have cable at my house. We don't watch it. I'm married and we live in Stillwater. Life is rather easy. I teach, run the chemistry store room and on some days, teach aerobics at the local gym. My husband works in Tulsa and leaves the house at 6.
I get to work and someone directs me to a news website. We switch on a television. I watch the second plane hit and nausea and vertigo overcome me and everyone around us. It's a cartoon; it has to be. But no, the world has just tilted off of its axis. All flights are grounded and my friend Karla and Art cannot get out of Oklahoma to get to Poland like they'd planned. Classes at OSU are not canceled. Doesn't matter- we don't do anything in them except huddle and watch tv. I don't take attendance. We feel like gravity has shifted and the world isn't under our feet the way it once was. I gather my international friends to my home. Anyone who looks "vaguely ethnic" because this is the land of rednecks and when the Oklahoma City bombing took place, some yahoos shot up the local mosque- the one with the playground on the side of it. The world mourns with us. Outpourings of support come in from the world and from true Muslim leaders. The news outlets also report a few radicals who celebrate. The word "terrorism" enters our vocabulary in a way I would have never thought possible. I worry about overreaction. I was right to worry. We enter a war with unknown assailants and attack Iraq under vague pretenses. It is very expensive and we will pay for this for a long time. The Patriot Act is passed. The voices of minority dissent are ignored and eventually threatened. We are not silent.
Eventually, My students leave for Fall break and on the way back, one of my O-chem students is stopped by airport security because her textbook contains the symbols for trinitrotoulene- dynamite. She is held and stripped by two men and interrogated for days, and is probably beaten, but is eventually released. Her dad, a lawyer, settles for enough money to pay for anything she needs practically forever. She is not allowed to talk of the details.

September 11, 2003
My marriage is in shambles. We have moved to Norman and sold our house. Karla has committed suicide and Art and I attend her funeral in the same church where they had planned their wedding. Airport security is ridiculous and we now have to remove our shoes prior to boarding. I am searched every time I cross the threshold. Once, they find a pen recycled from an eating utensil and mistake it for a shank. I am almost held over. A scan of my bag reveals a pear and I am scolded and told not to bring such things to the airport. I tell the TSA that I am an American citizen, but she doesn't hear me. She asks about the Chinese symbol on my shoulder. I tell her it s a peace symbol. That's a lie. Hatred and racism against non-white persons is high and corruption and extremism in America becomes far more transparent. I begin celebrating Ramadan with my Muslim friends in order to understand the spiritual and peaceful aspects of Islam. They celebrate Thanksgiving with me. I still worry about them.

September 11, 2010
It's been nine years. I've made a conscious effort in my teaching practice to instill a sense of social justice and tolerance. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. I sometimes perform in "The Vagina Monologues" and take the part that Karla used to play. My performances are dedicated to her and I send the playbills to her parents. They never write back. I've gotten another tattoo, of a yin yang, but it's in black and red. One of my students in class yesterday said he thought the war in Iraq was completely justified. I'm tired of fighting. I want the wars to end. All of them. My students know that Bill Clinton had and affair with Monica Lewinsky and that he probably inhaled pot, but have no idea of this Nobel Peace Prize. In Oklahoma City, it's popular opinion that a gathering of the KKK at the Ford Center is preferable to one of the local Satanic group. My friend Brent went to see Deepak Chopra at the Civic Center. I wonder if any of my students know who he is. Perhaps they would think he's a heretic. Perhaps I am jaded and am still searching for peace.
A Florida pastor named Terry Jones first vows to hold a Quran burning, then calls it off because it will most definitely incite greater recruitment into AlQaeda and also place our troops in greater danger than they already face. President Obama himself has to call and talk sense into him. Perhaps the heat and humidity has soaked through Jones' hypocritical brain. Others declare today to be "buy a Quran" day. It's the one day a year I think to sit and pray and meditate on peace and cry for our country and for all people of the world, especially for those with anger and discontent in their hearts.

On this day, may you love those who hate you. May you not strike back but offer a hand in friendship. May you heal yourself. May you be a blessing to those around you and all who would hear you.

If we can make war and destroy the world, then we can most certainly find the energy for peace.


  1. I hope that one day that happens.

  2. I was in 8th grade when 9-11 happened. Had NO CLUE what the "World Trade Center" was till then. And ever sense that day I started listening to that one channel my Grandpa always watched... CNN. I think the ONE thing I took away from this tragedy, it opened my eyes to knowing what happens around the world. Back in the day I thought the world revolved around me. That mind set quickly changed.... BTW, I'm so glad that douche bag pastor didn't burn the Koran. Praise da Lordy!

  3. Did you see this hipster kid who yanked the Quaran off of the bbq before it could be burned? Classic!