On September 11, 2001, I was a Junior in high school, attending Tekoa Academy Charter School in Marshall, TX, hoping to graduate a year early. This school had been poorly planned and executed, so it amounted to an over-grown one-room school house. My brother, Paul, and my cousin, Michael, attended the same school. We were in the same math class, although Paul was three years younger than me and Michael was two years younger than Paul.
That day, we were in said math class, when our aunt Jessie (she and my uncle Randall raised Michael because he’d been taken from our other aunt and uncle when he was a baby) and mine and Paul’s mom showed up to take us out of school early. We thought, perhaps, it was a surprise for Michael, since it was his 11th birthday.
We piled into Jessie’s little red truck, chatting excitedly, but something in the tone of our mothers’ voices and the somber silence in the ride back to Jessie and Randall’s house made at least me think something was not quite right. When we arrived at the house, the whole family was there. It was, as it turned out, a surprise party for Michael. On the TV was news footage of the attacks on the twin towers.
There was the shock that you’ve heard everyone tell about that day, along with additional worry for loved ones (Paul and I had aunts that lived in Bethesda, Maryland and worked in DC.). Since no one knew what was going on, nor the extent of it, we all sat watching the TV, although us children did a bit of wandering in and out of the room. Phone calls were made to relatives who couldn’t stop by in person.
This year marks the ninth anniversary of those attacks. It is sad that so many people died. It is sad that landmarks were destroyed (I had been in New York just two years prior and hadn’t had the opportunity to go up in those towers). But looking back nearly a decade, I am most sad about what the attacks did to the mentality of a massive amount of Americans.
Instead of joining together and building a stronger nation of fellows, in some ways the attacks tore us all further apart. Because one radical extremist group was thought widely to be a key player in the attacks, many Americans became fearful of anyone even remotely resembling the group in any way. Persons who are of Mideastern descent, or even, in some cases, descended of parts of Africa and Asia, are discriminated against by persons who think they know everything. This year, there was a huge controversy over the building of a house of worship because it happened to be near the site of the attacks.
I hate that a teacher and student at that Academy I attended were immediately shunned and felt pressured to leave. I hate that anyone who wears the conservative garb associated with the Islamic faith is shunned (even considering that not all Islamic individuals are part of the radical extremist group and not all persons wearing conservative garb are Islamic).
When I see a person dressed differently than me, I smile at them. Usually they smile back. If they don’t, I just keep smiling anyway. I am not afraid to sit next to a man in a turban or a woman in a head scarf. I feel the same way about some dressed “gangsta” or someone dressed like a cowboy or someone dressed in a tube top and micro mini. People are people. Fear and hatred breed violence. Love, respect, mutual understanding–these are the tools of peace.
Right now, I am not proud of the cousin I mentioned earlier. He has gotten himself into some trouble as of late do to his own violent tendencies towards persons he supposedly loves. And he, like many persons in the American south, also has some twisted ideas about tolerance and peace and love. I hope he figures things out; I cannot save him.
I can, however, train my own children to love everyone, to tolerate everyone. If I sound like I’m spouting peace, love, and rainbows, maybe I am. I know that violence won’t go away, and I know that I cannot sway the minds of the masses, especially through a post on a blog that few people read. But I can do my best by my children to arm them with the best weapons of all–open minds, open hearts, and intelligent eloquent speech.
John Lennon–Imagine there’s no countries (It isn’t hard to do), nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too. Imagine all the people, living life in peace.