I was going to go to the NJ shore that day with my daughter before she went back to Stanford. A friend called and said, “Turn on the tv.” That’s how I learned we were under attack.
I was living in NJ then. My husband had family in NYC. We all had friends there.
As I drove to the shore with my daughter, the roads were mostly deserted except for emergency vehicles going the other way, headed north to NY.
We saw the best and the worst of humanity on that day and the days that followed.
I hope we never forget that we are all—whatever race, nationality, religion, belief—connected. We cannot hurt each other without hurting ourselves.
I hope we never forget that sometimes we are the ones who have to take action—no matter how scared we may be—to stop harm from being done.
That day was a turning point for me. It helped to shape my decision to ask for a divorce. It helped to shape my determination not to write anything in which I did not truly believe. It helped to shape my determination to make a difference in whatever way I could.
One of my privileges was to be able to suggest ways, a year or two later, that the mother of someone who died on 9/11 could write about her pain without being overwhelmed. I now use the advice I needed to create for her to help others who want and need to write about painful events in their lives.
I still remember talking with my daughter. She was due to start back at Stanford in one week. Did she want me to drive her across country or would she wait and hope planes began to fly again? She chose not to live her life controlled by fear and decided she wanted to fly back to Stanford as the planes did begin to fly again.
I cannot forget 9/11 or the horror and grief this entire nation felt. I also cannot forget that if we turn our hate and our anger on all who are different or who are Muslim, then the terrorists have won for they will have taken from us part of what has made this nation so great—the willingness to welcome those who are different into our midst. We lose too much if we replace love with hate. And if we only hate, then we will inevitably create more hate in the world and we will be even less safe.
It is hard not to want to lash out, not to want to hurt those who hurt us. And I believe we should do whatever we can to stop terrorism. In doing so, however, we MUST remember that if we do harm to those who did not harm us, no matter how much they seem to look like those we fear, then we destroy ourselves and we invite future anger and terror from those who might have become our friends.