Looking forward, looking back and finally healing.
I heard the news on the Spanish radio station on the way to work. I went home at lunch time and made this mistake of watching the news. I saw bodies taking forever to fall from the upper floors and reach the ground. I saw the towers fall. I felt sick.
I tried to explain to my Spanish class mates how everything could be seen by people waiting for the ferry to take them to the Statue of Liberty. Families, adults, children – all watched all saw all could do nothing. I tried to explain what a square mile looked like (four adjacent houses in Sonoma Ranch subdivision) and the number of people in the buildings. A number equal to the population of Albuquerque went through those two buildings every day.
My reactions to 9/11 seemed to be running about 5 days behind the reactions of my coworkers. As they were starting to heal the raw feelings, I was starting to come out of shock and feel. So many people asked me if I knew anyone who had died. I was here in New Mexico and all my co-workers knew I was from Buffalo, NY. I still don’t know why they thought I was so cold hearted that I would come to work the day after a friend or family member had been murdered. And so I wore my New York City tee shirt. I had gotten that tee shirt from a street vendor when Jim and I went to New York City. I have a photo from that trip of Jim at the Statue of Liberty looking out and the Twin Towers in the background. The tee shirt has little drawings of all the famous spots to visit in New York City, including the Twin Towers. I wore the tee shirt then to show that I was tired of being asked questions. I was tired of people thinking I was cold hearted. I wore the tee shirt as a warning to others not to ask me stupid questions.
I’m wearing the tee shirt today. I’m finally starting to heal, and I’m wearing the tee shirt to celebrate that healing. I’m wearing the tee shirt as a tribute to those Jews who stayed with the recovered remains praying and fulfilling the mitzvah of accompanying the dead from the time of death to the time of burial. Although the Jews who stood watch and prayed had no idea to whom the remains belonged, if there was one Jew among the remains, they needed to pray. Rescue workers and those working on identifying the body parts were touched by the prayers of the Jews. I honor my fellow Jews for their commitment to our traditions and for their kindness to the living.
I constantly have to remind myself that 9/11 was caused by insane people who claimed to be Muslim. 9/11 was not caused by Muslims who happened to be insane. I must not judge or think less of a Muslim simply because the person is Muslim. I especially thank my Muslim friends for allowing me to share my feelings, and to learn from them. They have made it easier for me to remember that terrorists are insane people who just happen to claim to be Muslim. Muslim does not mean terrorist.
I still don't understand why this happened or what the terrorists hoped to accomplish. May He who makes peace in His heights, may He make peace upon us and upon all Israel. Amen