Reflections October 1, 2001


September 11th 2001. The day, time stood still. A day that seems to have never ended. Within that solitary day there is an eternity of shock, terror, death, life, fire, smoke, sunlight, dust, sorrow and hysteria. Three numbers-- 911, that were already imbued with so much meaning, now not only stand for "Emergency," but "State of Emergency." Three digits that immediately bring to mind the surreal images of two planes slamming each into 110 floors of steel, marble and concrete. It looked like pure science fiction, as if the south tower sucked-in this flying ship and crushed it in its huge belly. But as reality would have it, these monstrous planes crushed America’s, indeed the world’s, premier symbol of financial strength and power. As we try to make sense out of these horrendous tragedies—these "acts of war"-- there is a need to reach out and reflect. Here at theHotness we have asked some of our writers and subscribers to join us in sharing their perspectives on what has happened. If after reading this you feel compelled to share your thoughts, feel free to email your perspective to

~ Nicole Moore, Editor



Nicole Moore
Writer, African-American, New York NY

Day One: It’s a beautiful, sunny morning and for some strange reason I have to hear Steel Pulse’s True Democracy CD. After a crazy, almost reckless 30-minute search, I am jamming to their song, Chant A Psalm: "So blow away your bluesy feeling…" An hour later I turn on the radio and hear that a plane has flown into the north tower of the World Trade Center. I turn on the TV. I can’t believe what I am seeing and hearing, so I head for the roof. Up there I see clouds of black smoke burn through the sunny New York Skyline. There’s only one tower standing. I am somewhere in between screaming and moaning and passing out, knowing nothing will ever be the same.

Sept.12th: The eerie silence of the previous night was traumatizing. I heard someone sneeze. It was a man on the corner…one block away. I only slept one hour. This morning the wind has shifted and the smell of burning tires fills my apartment. I light incense and talk to friends that I haven’t spoken to in years. I cry and tell them I am alright. I think.

Sept.13th: I meet my girlfriend for dinner and drinks. The bartender buys everyone a round of shots called Red, White and Blues. By the time I throw back the blue shot, everyone is chanting, "USA, USA, USA." The liquor is way more intoxicating than this abrupt display of patriotism. I bite into my barbecue chicken and stare silently at the muted CNN coverage.

Sept.14th: There are 99-cent Bodega candles everywhere. I see them in Harlem in front of the local Laundromat; in Washington Square Park against the wire fence; and even surrounding the fountain in Columbus Circle. Everywhere there are white, blue, yellow and red splotches of melted wax coloring the concrete sidewalks, creating pools of rainbows on the ground. Directly above, hundreds of flyers each with a photo and the word "MISSING" wave desperately in the wind.

Sept.17th: I start reading a comic book— Astro City. Reading about superheroes that are ‘here to save the day’ keeps me distracted, if only for an hour. In these pages I dream. In that hour I fly.

Sept.22nd: My mother calls to see if I’m okay. She is going to send me a face mask… just in case. I put True Democracy on, open my comic and listen to David Hinds wail, "Rejoice, Rejoice/ Good tidings I bring you/ Blow away your bluesy feeling/ …and take the world off your shoulder."

Shabana Mir
Student, Pakistani, Indiana

September 11th was described as the Pearl Harbor of the 21st Century.

I could not stop feeling like the whole day was a horrible coming home.

I was there when Pakistan was targeted repeatedly for terrorist attacks while being the conduit for US aid to the Afghan mujahideen against Soviet forces. Bomb blasts at crowded bus stops; unprecedented serial killings of unprecedented violence and brutality, and increasing rates of drug addiction due to drug trafficking from Afghanistan were some of the costs Pakistan bore for helping America fight its war on a distant land. And Afghanistan, in the end, was what brought the dreaded superpower to its knees. Hard to remember, now that bin Laden has made Afghanistan his headquarters.

Jihad at that time was cool. General Zia with his Islamization policies was supported by the US. The Afghans were armed by the US, but they fought the USSR out of their land with the same spirit of jihad-struggle against the forces of evil. To this day, Afghans are plagued with the impact of the war—an appalling rate of disabilities, landmines, poverty, lawlessness and disorder. Did we pay attention to the Afghans when the Soviets were retreating and the Afghans found themselves free but traumatized? Or is it only when the Taliban started implementing their insane policies that we turned our gaze toward Kabul?

So difficult for Americans to imagine how it must be to live from day to day in the shadow of terror. We can’t imagine the lives of Iraqi mothers who, because of US sanctions, watch their infants die before their eyes. We can imagine the lives of American mothers fearful for their children’s safety in New York. We don’t know how it is to experience aerial bombings, together with collateral damage. We know what it is to look toward the World Trade Center and to no longer find it there. We don’t know how it is to be herded together by Serbs, starved and killed in concentration camps.

The terror is unprecedented, but Americans have no idea what it is to be "attacked."

Yet suddenly, yesterday, I felt like I did in a Third World country, full of economic and political instability, surrounded by turmoil. Life was suddenly unpredictable again.

At my home campus, Indiana University, yesterday alone six Muslim women were harassed. Two of them were physically threatened. All over North America, Muslim women who veil are being told to keep a low profile. Just like women in Afghanistan.

Muslims in America are doubly attacked. To the fear of terrorism is added the fear of undeserved revenge.

In all of the racist rhetoric against Muslims, Arabs and Islam, I felt like my name was being associated with Osama bin Laden and my soul revolted against that association. I am not bin Laden. I am not a terrorist. I am a Pakistani Muslim Sufi woman. I have spent years doing multifaith and intercultural work.

I am not Osama bin Laden. I speak Arabic, but not with him. I pray five times a day, but not with him. I fast during Ramadan, but I do not break bread with him. I believe in democracy, peace, conflict resolution, the power of communication, justice, and compassion. When you fail to distinguish between him and me, you belittle American beliefs and you sabotage American unity.

We miss our loved ones, laugh with our friends, take the metro to work, love a sunny day, bleed when you prick us. When schoolchildren speak in stereotypes they have learned at home or on TV, our children are hurt. We are upset when you send us a hurtful email, we are afraid when you make threatening phone calls, we are poor when you will not employ us, we are glad when you say we will stand together and that you understand the difference between peace-loving Americans and terrorists.

We are your local doctors, your children’s schoolteachers, your cab drivers from work, your neighborhood Seven-Eleven owners, your college professors, your colleagues, your fellow students at school and university. We are not Osama bin Laden.

Don’t ever lump us together.

Leslie Hinkson
Student, African-American, Princeton NJ

Watching the Twin Towers fall on September 11th, my first thought as a human being was for the thousands of people who were trapped within, unable to escape and mere pawns in a game of ideological chess.

My second thought, however, influenced more by my identity as an African-American woman, was that this was only the beginning. Countless more innocents would be injured or killed on our nation’s streets as a result of this abomination. And it would not be an external enemy perpetrating these crimes but American citizens, individuals depriving others of the most sacred of human rights – the right to live. I had visions of anyone with an Arab surname or remotely resembling an Arab to the indifferent American eye being stopped at intersections, harassed, beaten. Storeowners robbed and killed. And unfortunately, this prophesy, to some extent, has come true.

In Chicago, an angry mob marches on a mosque. In New York, a Sikh man is beaten senseless by an angry group of men. In Philadelphia, a group of African-American men assault and batter a Muslim woman in front of her young children. A statistic on CNN cited 230 such attacks have been committed on college campuses alone. Even at our universities where the fostering of intellect is thought to breed tolerance, people are not safe from ignorance.

In the rhetoric of GW and Colin Powell our higher purpose is freedom and the morality of today is that of "eye-for-an-eye" vengeance. However, the response of the United States government, rather than easing my doubts and fears has increased them. The rhetoric of patriotism, acts as a means of dividing as well as separating the people of this country. This patriotism coupled with the language of revenge that we have been inundated with since the 11th has contributed greatly to the attacks on Arabs, Indians, Persians, and Muslims across the country.

I want justice done. I want those responsible to be punished. I do not think this will be accomplished by murdering thousands of innocents. If we choose this path, we too are terrorists. This goes well beyond the actions of a few dozen men. It speaks of the suffering of millions across the globe whose fear and uncertainty have turned to anger. Punish those responsible, but leave the innocents alone. Unless we get to the root of the problem, unless we come to understand the poverty and hopelessness that resides in many countries across the globe and America’s contribution to this state, we will never stamp out terrorism. Kill one terrorist and you create a martyr to be praised and emulated. Kill hunger, disease, and hopelessness and you create allies. And more importantly, you create a morality within your own borders, a value for human life above material gain that this nation sorely lacks.

Jeni Fujita
Singer, Japanese-American, New York NY

Dust of Angels
Unable to find hope lost in rooms full of smoke.
People jumping out windows and running through our streets
covered in white dust of angels
that we could smell all the way in Brooklyn.
We light incense and white candles.
I see the spirits as I ride past Chambers Street on the C train.
I feel their confusion, everything happened so fast.
Bringing tears to my eyes and a new found pride in being American.
And now, the fear of what’s next?
Or maybe we take each day as a Blessing—holding our loved ones closer.
Every smile, every meal, every step, every song,
every time we exercise our freedom of speech.
Everyday appreciating being alive in a place where it’s up to me
to uplift my mind and get free.

Marcia Jones
Painter, African-American, Los Angeles CA

Could it be that in a past life over 7,000 souls swore it would be their mission to die for a cause that would bring change to a world of chaos, lies and extremities? Could it be, as I have once heard, I have no proof of this … or maybe I do…that the World Trade Buildings were built on top of slave graves. That those grounds were where they dumped the bodies of our ancestors that were "no good for selling nor trading." I also wondered if they were the same souls as well. I often feel more sorrow for our souls still trapped in the constrictions of our mind, emotions and flesh. I struggle daily to find peace and happiness in this heavy suit of blood and bone. I am certain that those spirits will return to the new world in which they died for.

I admit, I am not well read on the Taliban. I don’t know who was flying that plane. No one does. People have assumed. I don’t watch the news. I’m tired of hearing about it. I feel like I’m being made out to be an idiot, as if I’m just suppose to swallow what I am fed. I have too many conspiracy theories to contend with, to come to a sound assessment of any of this. I think Chandra Levy knew about the whole thing and was about to blow the whistle on the operation…call me crazy, but hey do we know that’s not true? How do we know those images of the Afghanistans dancing in the street were about this? Those could have been images from another time. I think we planned it, paid for it, and trained for it. It’s called New World Order, but hey, none of that is neither here nor there in the larger picture.

All that I know is this has affected me. It has interrupted my inner peace, the peace I thought I had acquired within. I now battle with my own extremes. I fight my own personal battles of good over evil within myself. I have lied. I have terrorized. I have blamed and I have denied. I have united with others for a cause. I have believed in the American dream. And I have donated, honestly, just to make room for new shit but hey I am American. I am a product of this nation. I am a product of my environment and my environment is a product of me. A reflection. It’s time to really change. That’s what this was, a Universal cry for change on every level! This day has been predicted for centuries from every religious scripture to the Sign of the Times CD. Every Prophet has predicted this day. All we can do is have faith. Freedom has giving us the choice to believe in so many things outside of ourselves that I wonder if we have stopped believing in ourselves and the power of collective energy. Some Jews, Christians and Buddhists will go to church and pray together, but will blame the Muslims during the service. Just today a guy with 5 American flags on his SUV cut me off and gave me the finger. How’s that for unity? I bet he’s in a hurry to vandalize the local 7-11.

I don’t want to slander anyone. I really want to be at peace with everyone’s cause of action and overstand the balance. It has to exist for wisdom to exist. And where is wisdom? On the down low somewhere? Is wisdom being censored? The only thing I can do is take responsibility for myself. I’m going to take action as I wish to see this nation take action. I have to be honest and responsible for my own personal terrorist attacks on myself and on others, I have to forgive and apologize to myself for my evil doings and injustice. I have to honor every bit of me and truly embrace myself. I have to honor being human. I’ve got to become at balance with myself so my environment will reflect and inspire balance. I’ve got to strip down all my pretensions, dissect my denial, admit to my lies, honor my flaws become fearless of my own victory. The only war there is to fight is the one with ourselves. Over 7,000 people died for the sake of my happiness (again), the least I can do is honor the cause of the dead and take my own personal action towards the effects of the living. One person at a time.

Bahia Ramos
Educator, Panamanian, Brooklyn NY

From the prominent display of the American flag on our businesses, homes, and bodies, it has been made clear that America comes first. Any optimism about a growing Black political or social consciousness has been replaced by the red, white and blue. Seeing another community of color under attack has apparently wiped away our historical role as the "least desirable" race and, either as a show of thanks or an attempt to avoid any backlash, we have sucked jingoism up like good BBQ sauce and joined the ranks of the patriotic zealots we once despised. It’s so bad we give Giuliani props. Some black people have gone to great lengths to prove how patriotic they are by publicly proclaiming this day as the day they became American. Still others have gone so far as to shed their non-violent ways and fully support Bush’s efforts to attack innocent civilians in the Middle East (with the utmost discretion, of course). And then there’s me. I cannot begin to fully comprehend the tragic loss of those who fell victim to this atrocious act and am eternally respectful of the efforts of those who went above the call of duty to maintain our confidence in the sanctity of human life by spending countless hours in Ground Zero searching for survivors. But I cannot bring myself to join in choruses of "God Bless America" and drape myself in Old Glory. America’s conceit does not sit well with me. I cannot be proud of a country that is largely ignorant and boastful of its conquests. Its alleged economic prosperity has done very little to uplift communities of color or the poor. The "white noise" of patriotism is being blared with such ferocity that it’s become increasingly harder to even hear my own heartbeat.

Vinita Srivastava
Journalist, Indian, Brooklyn NY

These are the ways the attack on New York has affected my life:

I had nightmares for seven days of overhead jets dropping bombs and a loved one getting drafted.

I cried under the covers, on the couch, at my desk at work, on the phone for innocent lives lost.

On the seventh day I dreamt seven of my friends shrunk to 13 year olds and we were playing together.

I wanted to ask a man I love to marry me. I didn't ask.

I baked brownies and ate organic chocolate hazelnut ice cream.

I dropped to my knees and wept in front of constantly moving CNN triplicate images. One of protests in northern Pakistan and underneath, their bright red logo and then, moving typed headlines: Troops moving into northern Afghanistan.

I read all the time. History books, newspapers, Internet essays, and in between, for a playful, vulnerable break, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

I felt loved by so many people. And I realized who and how many I loved.

I felt different walking down the street. It was quiet. Sad. Surreal. Strangers looked into my eyes. Smiled. Folks on the subway offered their help. And men in business suits stopped like little boys in the Times Square subway station. Life is going on all around them. But they are stilled by the memorial of missing lost ones and candles still burning and public debates about religion in a subway station soap box revival.

There are times when an old familiar sensation of being expelled, ostracized, and ridiculed came to my body.

I felt angry and restless and sad by the simplified and mixed messages on TV drawing a picture of our enemy without the complexities of global history and current politics.

I feel terrible, restless, anxious about war.

Angel Kyodo Williams
Zen Priest, African-American, Brooklyn NY

The devastation of this day is staggering beyond measure.

We have all heard the radio, watched the television with our mouths gaping in disbelief, our hearts wrenching in despair. We have heard talk of resolve and determination. Plans for justice and retaliation. Unanswerable questions being asked and unimaginable events being lived.

The fact is that as a culture and as a people, we are not equipped emotionally, psychically and spiritually to manage the magnitude of this tragedy in our minds. We have, mercifully, lived for so long under the dark shroud of ignorance to the scope of our vulnerability.

I want to encourage you all, first and foremost, to be still. To listen to your heartbeat. To be silent. To breathe. If you listen deeply, it is the voice of sanity and compassion that you will find there. It is the voice that will remind you of your connection with all beings.

We need to find peace in our own hearts first.

Many people find their ways to spiritual paths, to personal paths of transformation when the ground they always knew to be there falls out from underneath them. The ground has fallen out beneath us America. Let us all find the wisdom to see this unspeakable tragedy as a doorway to meaningful change, as a precursor to collective transformation. If we do not accept this challenge, if we are not brave and unrelenting in our demand, but instead cower behind the "quiet, unyielding" and clearly insatiable, emotion of anger, the loss of thousands of lives will not be merely unspeakable, they will be in vain.






Reproduction of material from any pages of without permission is strictly prohibited.
© theHotness 2002