Yahoo! is asking Americans how September 11 changed them. Below is an account from a reader.
I was one of the lucky ones. A phone call that led to the television, that led to another phone call and so on. Disbelief and tears were my first reactions. Wanting to know who did this and why were my second.
I had just been hired as an ESL (English as a Second Language) assistant in our local high school the week and was scheduled to start on September 12. I would be helping dozens of students from India, Bangladesh and Belarus; teenagers who had already witnessed enough stressors in their young lives; September 11 just added to that stress. I had walked those noisy halls many times prior to this new position. But one day after the attack it was surreal. 9/11 was a day that changed the tone of things in those halls. It was much quieter now.
[Your story: How has September 11 changed you?]
You could see the fear in the eyes of these immigrants and refugees. Yet, it wasn't these youngsters that had me upset, rather the ideology of their forefathers. I'd already witnessed the tears and fears of a 15-year-old girl with the name Pretti, whose parents were already setting up her arranged marriage. Pretti was a tenth-grade student, already becoming an American teenager with jeans and hair styles to fit the mold.
School-sponsored clubs and the thought of going to college gave her hope and made her smile, but that day in health class, she spoke through tears as she expressed her worries. I couldn't imagine her position in life. She was just learning to master her skills in writing a critical paper in English, but that was her culture. The clashing of cultures only added to the stress. Now 9/11 could be added to the list.
Bombs or Quakes?
A short time ago, on August 23, the East Coast experienced an earthquake, a minor tremor really, but in that moment as I sat at my kitchen table with my husband and two of my children, my mind immediately shot to 9/11.
Ten years ago, I worried for my children's safety, even though I knew they were nowhere near New York, the Pentagon or that field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Mine was the gut reaction of a mother and, like many mothers around the world, I cried and questioned what it meant. That day and every day since then, I have felt the need to close our borders.
Did I want war? No, I did not. What I wanted was to avoid conflict, to ward off the enemy by keeping them out. Close our borders, station our troops at our ports, check everyone by air or sea -- because that is how we protect ourselves, our country, our homes. We lock the doors.
I've taught my children that bullies are bad. Bullies look for fights. Bin Laden and his followers are those types of bullies. Americans are peacemakers at heart. We call to the broken to seek shelter here, but at what expense? Yes, you are invited to visit. Yes, you are invited to become a citizen, but by our rules. Play by the rules. We spend millions on sporting events and scream at the referees when we disagree with their call -- so why don't we obey our own rules when it comes to illegal immigrants?
Teach Them What is Right
The students in my ESL class were learning English. Why? Because it is one of the requirements to becoming a United States citizen. I was proud of their efforts and goals. I saw genius in those students and struggles, too. I visited homes where their own mothers were not learning to speak English, let alone encouraged to learn. This saddened me and I asked why. I was told that was their rule: that the "mother tongue" was the language spoken in the household. I had two problems with this: 1) In America, women have rights; 2) How is this woman/mother/grandmother to become a United States citizen if she is not encouraged to learn English? I don't think they planned on that. I don't think they cared. So where is the desire to join the melting pot of America? How can one feel American if he or she never becomes one?
It was my daughter who brought my focus away from that tragic day ten years prior. Her utterance of a word that forced me to turn my thoughts from distrust of man to the power of mother nature. But I wasn't sure. I still had to turn on the television, get on Facebook, double-check in my husband's eyes. Earthquake. Earthquake. I could live with that. We could all live with that or call 9/11 if we needed help. Couldn't we?