It is the day before 9/11. Every year it is the same for me, the recollection of that morning, dragging the TV to the cable outlet because the radio's disjointed tones tell us something is terribly wrong. It is six in the morning, and we are in Hawaii, as far from New York City as we can be and this by choice. There is fear in the strained tones of the announcer and in the repetition of images on the screen: an airplane, inexplicably, planting itself in the side of a tower. The World Trade Center collapsing into itself like a magic trick. Oh.
We know there may be students with family members affected, so we begin to move like ghosts, me with Taiaroa on my hip, knocking on dormitory doors. Wake up, dear ones. Something has happened. Something has happened.
Nine years later it is still happening, and I am invited to burn a Koran. How a seed of blame can grow in a decade. How we nurture our hate, braid our fear into a new thing that neither resembles truth nor serves any purpose but to annihilate. The other. The self.
What was said to urge this leap from one violence to another, its new victim strangely like ourselves? What did we tell ourselves to be able to point to one bewildered group of people and say You? Why are we so comforted by wholesale blame? Absolute culpability--so neat and clean. Easy. Can we really reduce ourselves, our response to a tragedy, to this?
I am invited then by my Jewish writer friend to read a Koran on this terrible day of remembering, and I am able to take a tiny breath. It is an act that means not forgiveness (how narrow, how presumptuous) but that we try to understand. The other. The shadowy figure of the unknown. It means we try to close a chasm that is filled with our ignorance and surely with our fear. It means that what we seek, after all, is not division but divine connection. Linguistic proof of shared holiness. Hidden in our humanity. It is a way to say I am not afraid and I don't need your culpability to free me from my grief.
Thank you, David, for your invitation. It saves me from the many others that have whirled around our ears over the last nine years. On this day we remember--and we express our infinite hope, because how else can we live another year, another moment, with our imperfect selves?