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By the Numbers

"Let us not look back in anger or forward in fear, but around in awareness." James Thurber

This morning, at 8:10 local time, our school held a moment of silence for the victims of 9/11. We are an American school, therefore, I suppose, it is appropriate. My students and I sat quietly during our moment of silence, and a few of us teared up, but once it was over we moved on with class and did not mention the event. The destruction of the Twin Towers occurred seven years ago. Yes, the more than 3,000 people who died represented over 90 nationalities. I wholeheartedly concur that the day was tragedy. I remember. I was there. I was learning how to be a journalist. I was confused by the news reports, and I also cried. Sometimes, I still do.

September 11 is a day that was tragic. It is a day that should be remembered. But it is also day in which the United States and the West are more solipsistic than necessary.

Every year in the United States on September 11, the media and the politicians spend the majority of the day remembering, discussing and analyzing the calamity. Right now, as I write this, the BBC is in Pakistan covering the implications for the "Islamic world" and the United States of the September 11th events . Somewhere, on the cover of a newspaper, there is a picture of the plan for the memorial in honor of the victims of 9/11. On the cover of The New York Times, rightly so, there are the photos illustrating the former presence and the current absence of the Twin Towers in lower Manhattan. Right now, on National Public Radio, they speak of September 11. And these are my observations from afar. I can only imagine what the coverage is like in the States right now.

Those who lost their lives in the destruction of the Twin Towers and the Pentagon did represent over 90 nationalities. But, we have over 180 nationalities here in our little country. In my class alone, during that moment of silence, my 24 students probably represented over 30 different nationalities. And these kids live in the Middle East. Most of them have lived on multiple continents. They have a keen awareness of war and conflict and death, and it is doubtful that September 11 was a defining moment for them because so many "Americans" died. It may have been a defining moment because it has exponentially increased the degree of upheaval in the world in which they live. It may have been a defining moment because from that time on, because of their passports, or their nationality, or their religion or where they've lived, someone may meet them and immediately and indiscriminately label them a "terrorist". It may have been a defining moment because for some of them, that day may have an impact sevenfold this past seven years; it may have divided their worlds for a lifetime.

Yet all over the world there have been catastrophes brought on by nature, cataclysms precipitated by religion, and calamities driven by nationalism; however, how often do people build monuments to the victims, honor them every year and all day in the news and broadcast it internationally?

The only time I find information regarding Yom Hashoah, is when I am searching for information for lesson plans for either Night, or the Holocaust. I don't hear a list of names read every year in the spring, on the 27th day of Nisan. How often, do I run across a program on television or hear one on the radio, on the seventh of April in honor of the more than 800,000 victims of the Rwandan genocide? Until two years ago, I had never even heard of the genocide in Guatemala, in which approximately 200,000 indigenous Guatemalans were massacred. Annually, how many people on "that" side of the globe, commemorate the nearly 220,000 victims of the December 2004 tsunami; and every year in August, are the more than 1,800 victims of Hurricane Katrina - mostly poor - honored? How about the folks in Chile, Uganda, Gaza, Sri Lanka, Somalia, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Armenia, Beirut, Congo, Guinea, Kuwait, Liberia, Zimbabwe, and currently in Nigeria, Haiti, Sudan, Afghanistan, Iraq - will they have a day in which the media and the politicians read names, build monuments, hold moments of silence, re-hash and relive the sadness on the anniversary all day every year?


Seabee said…
I was going to post something similar, but you said it so much better than I could.

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