Friday, September 11, 2015

Remembering 9/11

September 11, 2001 was earth shattering for those who were living through it.  Over the years, stories and lessons have emerged from that day.  So, on the anniversary of 9/11, I want to post about it as a way of remembering those who died that day but also to learn something from that day.  My own personal experience was that I was teaching sociology in a room in the 2900 hallway when Mr. Frantonius came into my room in a hurry and said turn on your TV, the pentagon is on fire and the world trade center is on fire.  We turned on the TV to live coverage and we watched the mayhem including live footage of the crash into tower 2 of the World Trade Center.   I remember leaving and trying to figure out what to tell my students in non-western cultures class third period.  Then, I had to travel to the other building and going outside was transformational - it was a beautiful sunny september day and the birds were singing oblivious to the horrors that people were going through.  It was ocmforting to think of creation and nature being so at peace.  Anyway, I had to teach the rest of the day despite the turmoil of emotions that we all experienced.  Looking back, there are some lessons to be learned and I think they all relate in part to sociology, certainly when considering sociological mindfulness.

One of the most direct ways that I think sociologically about 9/11 is in the discussion of stereotypes and categories. I posted about this here too. The attackers on 9/11 fell into the category of Muslim but that should not be turned into a stereotype about Muslims. There is a powerful video that illustrates how Muslims were stereotyped after 9/11 and the video also shows how these stereotypes are shattered when you see the full spectrum of Muslims in America. video
The speech in that video illustrates the same type of racist, intolerance that led to the attacks on 9/11. I think that September 11 can be a day to remember that we are all connected and we all share this world, and this can be done in peace and tolerance, even if we are not all in agreement. Don't let the hurt and anger give way to stereotypes, injustice and hatred.

Another way I think about 9/11 is through all of the love and heroism that was displayed during that traumatic day. There are so many stories of strangers helping each other and displaying unbelievable acts of courage and love - from the Port Authority of NY to the police, fire and other first responders to those who just happened to be at work that day and found themselves in a situation to help others. It was an incredible illustration that when life seems senseless and unbearable, we can ask ourselves, "How can I serve?" In other words, what can I do to help my fellow people and how can I make this world a bit better. That gives meaning to our life just as it did to those people on 9/11. Sociologically, humans were made to need each other. Here is a video displaying some of this heroism and caring in the largest water evacuation in history. video It is our nature to love one another and be cooperative. We often lose sight of that in our individualistic culture. Here is a quote from two survivors of 9/11:
On a personal level, Mel and Lisa learned several lessons from that day. “Be patient, be tolerant and above all tell people you love them every single day,” Lisa said. “Hate drove that day. The lesson is to never hate. Hate does damage. People didn’t need to die that day.”
Here is another example about the people living in the small town of Gander in Newfoundland, Canada and how they came to the aid of hundreds of people. video One example from my own life this day was my mom who worked at O'Hare Airport as a ticket agent. After the attacks, O'Hare was closed down and all the employees and passengers were being forced to evacuate. As this was going on, an elderly woman who had trouble seeing approached my mom and asked what she should do. My mom said that the airlines would get a hotel room for her. The woman said that the nearest available rooms were in a far suburb away from the airport. So, my mom said, "You know what? You come home with me." And she did. This total stranger lived with my parents for four days! It was that kind of caring that these horrible events brought out. I hope to be mindful and let that light shine without a horrific switch turning it on.

Read more:

One of the heroes of that day was Rick Rescorla. Rick was a war veteran who was working as head of security for Morgan Stanly Dean Witter. He anticipated the terrible attacks on the Towers and that caused him to force the employees of MSDW to undergo evacuation drills regularly. It is my understanding that these were not popular within the company, but it was his conviction and willingness to take an unpopular stance that prepared so many for the events of that day. What a model Rescorla is for standing up for our beliefs and doing a job the best that we can while thinking of our fellow men.
From the NY Times
HAVING coined the phrase “the banality of evil,” Hannah Arendt went on to suggest that the most heinous crimes have often been committed by morally desensitized ordinary people. The inverse may be equally true: that “ordinary” heroes like Rick Rescorla, who saved almost 2,700 lives on Sept. 11, 2001, only to lose his own, are the yang to Arendt’s yin, demonstrating what you might call the profundity of virtue.

And one last story by former NYPD cop, Steve Osborn who helps us understand what it's like to be a cop on most days and how that translated to 9/11.

1 comment:

  1. Wow. The first video literally gave me the chills. It's disappointing how intolerant some people can be. It makes me angry that people stereotyped all Muslims in that way. We need to learn to become tolerant of all human beings and embrace each others' differences. I hope the speakers in the video will eventually learn that.