Saturday, September 11, 2010

September 11, 2001 - Never Forget.

I remember where I was on the morning of September 11, 2001.

I remember being in the W Hotel in Chicago, in town to join the band Soil at their CD release party, scheduled for that night at the Cabaret Metro. I remember the phone ringing shortly before 8am our time, and my college roommate - who slept in my room with his girlfriend after driving down from Milwaukee to hang out the night before - wondering why his mother kept calling.

I remember when he finally answered his phone, his side of the conversation, and him hanging up. I remember him looking across the room at me with groggy eyes, and saying that his mom said someone flew a plane into the World Trade Center.

We assumed that it was a twin-engine, and turned on CNN to watch coverage of the accident. We watched as the first plane and tower burned, and learned that it wasn't, in fact, a twin-engine.

And we learned that it wasn't an accident.

We watched and listened in stunned silence as details emerged. And our hearts sunk as the second plane crashed into the second tower.

We watched people leap to their death from 100 stories in the air, trying to escape the hell that was unleashed around them.

We watched the towers fall, and felt connected to the countless souls wandering, ash covered, in the streets of lower Manhattan.

The emotion was nothing I'd ever felt - and nothing I'll ever forget.

My friends from Soil were in the air when it happened. I had another friend whose plane landed safely in New York, despite passing and witnessing the burning World Trade Center in their landing pattern.

I knew people who worked in the World Trade Center, and it took days to confirm that they had survived.

And I have a friend who lost a brother in the attack.

I will never forget how that felt - the horror, the loss, the anger, the helplessness, the frustration...

The terror, as the Sears Tower was evacuated as a possible target for the fourth plane, and the grim reality of the new era we were entering as our hotel became a gathering center for evacuees from the nearby landmark.

Nine years later, I reflect on that day at least a few times a week. I can't help it - it is part of my wiring. It has become part of who I am. The events of that day - and the months and years that followed - have helped shape the man that I am, my politics, my spiritual presence, and my cultural identity.

And today, on the ninth anniversary of one of the most horrifying attacks ever waged on American soil, my heart aches not only for the loss, but also for the way history attempts to revise and rewrite the events of September 11, 2001.

September 11 is a day to not only celebrate and mourn the lives of fellow Americans, but also the freedom that their loss represents.

Inherent in freedom, is tolerance - not a shiny, happy concept of tolerance, but living and breathing acts of tolerance that are rooted in respect, not entitlement. Acts that are reciprocal.

For every mention I've seen today of the lives lost in the events of 9/11, I've seen many more mentions of the controversial mosque being planned near the Ground Zero site, and the ensuing fallout - much of it ridiculous, racist and laden in fear.

I have no problem with building a mosque at Ground Zero. What I have an extreme problem with, is the intolerance of someone actually proposing and fighting to build a mosque at that location.

Tolerance isn't a blanket ideology, it is a work in progress that must be exercised with practicality and temperance, and coupled with humility and humanity.

There is something inhumane and self-absorbed about the mere proposal of building a mosque at Ground Zero. There is something intolerant and callous about the ongoing fight to keep it there.

Today, on the ninth anniversary of 9/11, I don't want to read about what this day represents to religious tolerance.

I don't want to hear about how we need to be bigger than the extremists that attacked us, and show them that we are a better people by letting a mosque be built near Ground Zero.

I want to remember Ground Zero. I want to remember the people that died there. I want to remember the horror that I felt, and revel in the awakening that the events offered me.

It wasn't an awakening of intolerance, it was an awakening of who we are as a country, and how we need to constantly establish that identity in the midst of people who want to strip it away.

An act of tolerance is nothing if not coupled with respect. And respect is earned, not granted.

I respect the nearly 3000 Americans that lost their lives on September 11, 2001, in the attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and in the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania. I respect that their deaths are an unfortunate and horrific cost to pay for a country that is rooted in principles of freedom, liberty and tolerance.

Tolerance that, too often, is taken for granted.

On this day, don't just remember 9/11, respect the memory of 9/11 - the people that died, the loved ones that mourn them, and the country that was attacked.

Respect. Tolerance will follow.

Never forget.

No comments: