I Remember

Saturday was the ninth anniversary.

I remember that day.  I was living in London where I was a professional dog walker (that’s not the point of the story). My boss called me at home at 3:00 PM. He told me to turn on the TV. He didn’t say anything else. He just hung up. I turned on the TV and saw what so many others saw at the beginning of their days. I saw the towers. I saw the people jump. I watched it all crumble — but I couldn’t watch anymore than that. I wanted to know where my family was. After all, New York is my home. It will always be my home — no matter where I wander. New York City will always be a place that makes my heart sing. So, I dialed. I dialed my stepmother’s office. And then, I called her cell phone. Neither connected. I waited and tried again. I sent emails hoping that the failed telephone wires would at least let an email through — but I heard nothing. Like so many others, I didn’t know where the people I loved were. I thought of my friends from high school and college. I wondered how they were — before an email finally came back from my cousin employed by The New York Times. His email worked. He found my stepmother. He said she was OK. She was safe — and he would be too. 

I breathed a sigh of relief before I pushed out the door for the evening walk through the park. This was my fourth month in London. I had originally planned to fly home on September 11, 2001 but something had caused me to change my flight. Instead, I would depart on September 12 to visit my host family in Italy. I would stay in Europe one more week while the entire world changed.

This photo was taken my MutantFrog.

This is what I remember. I remember how awkward I felt in the park that evening. I remember the embraces from the dog owners I knew. I remember seeing a Muslim family and arresting my eyes, wondering:  How can I look at them? How can I show them compassion when I know that they’re not to blame? How can I demonstrate with my eyes what I quite say with my words? I remember how uncomfortable I felt that in this new world where it was a radical act to relate to another’s humanity.

When I returned to New York City, that’s what I remember. I remember the radical compassion of those that helped. There were no barriers. There wasn’t any red tape. People did what they could to help their neighbors — to be in right relationship. It was indeed sacred.  

I’m thankful for Rita Brock’s recollection of this precious, sacred time where the people of the world truly lived in compassion.  I needed to remember that — because I remember when it disappeared. I remember when the generosity ended and how it feels now when Christians threaten to burn Qurans and neighbors rally against the spirit of community in Lower Manhattan. I can only pray that we all remember the sacredness of our relationships. I hope this is what we never forget.

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