Like every New Yorker, I remember where I was on September 11, 2001. I was in ninth grade at the time, and at school. I heard about the first plane hitting the tower from my Computer Lab professor as we entered our morning session with him and he had the news on. I was numb to the news and tried my best to focus on work as everyone else was, but while we were in the class, we heard on the radio he had on that the second plane had hit.
Tamping down my fear didn’t work much longer as my friend beside me checked: “Balloo, doesn’t your mother work in the Trade Center.”
As a matter of fact, she did, Tower 1 specifically. I’m not going to draw out the suspense, she was late that morning. She got home safely. I (eventually) got home to see her. Before I made it home though, I spent the next two hours in the professor’s office trying to call my mom’s cell phone unsuccessfully, then the next few hours with my schoolmates in our auditorium where we occupied ourselves nervously until parents and guardians arrived to retrieve us one by one.
My mother walked the 10 miles from ground zero back to our apartment on the Upper West Side. It was four in the afternoon by the time she found a family friend who could get me at the school, and let me know she was safe.
You may or may not recall that the column of smoke and ash from the buildings’ collapse remained for months. For months after 9/11, I’d see the column of ash as an unmoving fixture against the sky from all the way on the Upper East Side where the school was. For the next few months, every New Yorker could see that tower from anywhere in the city.
That fear of losing my mother that day is still accessible to me, to this very day. The lingering anxiety of looking on that column of ash for months is still cold in my mind. The tightening of fear for years after anytime I saw an airplane any lower than the upper stratosphere. I can recall all those feelings with ease.
I am a Christian. I am also human. I feel fear. I have experienced dread, terror and despair up close and in person from the streets in which they happened, not just over a TV screen through breaking news reports.
I am writing this today to say that I refuse to let my fear stand in the way of advocating what I know in my heart is what we are called as Christians to support and enable: the aid of refugees and those in need of our help. I am stating, unequivocally that to let my fear justify my complacency, apathy-or worse- support of the Muslim Ban and increasing the challenges of refugees seeking asylum would be to let my fear keep me from what I am called to be as a Christian. I am called to conquer my fear in the name of God and being an example of His love.
If you feel fear, I understand. I have been there. I am still there. However, believe that courage comes not in absence of but in the face of fear. Believe that we can do amazing things that ring even more profoundly to move us forward as a society and nation when we act in love in the face of fear. Believe in love. Believe in America.
Your story touches my heart! Also importantly, is the emotional trauma, fear and insecurity that stayed with us after 9/11 and which I continued to experience, sometimes to a lesser extent during my work as an international civil servant. As you so eloquently stated, fear should not be a barrier to doing what is right, especially to the ones who themselves are probably grasping for their very livelihoods. Look forward to reading more from you. Thanks for sharing.