Ten years ago today, I was sitting scared in my apartment 5 minutes away from the Pentagon, waiting to hear if a family member who worked in the Twin Towers had made it out (he did). The explosion of the plane shook our windows and rattled my soul. No one really knew what was happening, but everyone knew that it wasn’t good.
After 9/11, I had friends who did not leave the house for weeks. Tempted as I was to do the same, living with someone who grew up in the country which invented suicide bombers taught me a little something about fear. Having never encountered such fear, my initial response was to retreat. On that day, I called my husband at work, pleading with him to come home so he would “be safe” and hide with me. He knew better.
As a teenager, when a bomb went off just blocks from his house, his mom sent him out on his bike to see what had happened. He recounts the incident like that was the most normal maternal response in the world! “They’ve already set off the bomb,” he rationalizes. “It’s not like anyone is going to stick around to be caught.”
There were also periods of curfew (when the government declared the country so unsafe that no one could circulate freely), where school was cancelled and people stayed in for weeks or months at a time. He speaks fondly of the games he played with his friends and family during this time, and how he was glad to have gotten out of school.
Those days of uncertainty and chaos instilled in him a deep thirst for justice, redemption, and restoration. When he came to the US, he pursued two degrees in social work and is now sweating his way through a PhD in Community Economic Development (think: microfinance, development and the like, or check out his blog). Out of the ashes of his country grew a deep understanding that days of difficulty call for people to step up to, not away from, the plate.
May the ashes of this painful day remind us, like FDR’s words, to do the same.