Friday, September 10, 2010

Burning Qur'ans, Zealots, and A Lesson On Tolerance: The Best Way to Honor the Victims of September 11th

I will tell them the story…
about the day we fought with Mari for the remote control and insisted the grown-ups in the room watch the traffic update on the local news instead of another episode of Barney, only to watch in horror as the TV played over and over again a clip of a plane circling the towers and piling into the windows and the steel and the concrete, forcing a grand, raging ball of bright orange fire into the sky.
I will tell them the story…
about how we thought it was a mistake—surely, a horrible, tragic mistake—until the second plane crashed. And then the third and the fourth. And the smoke wailed. And the phones went dead. And the people started leaping. And the buildings, full of the friends and colleagues and acquaintances we made in this beautiful stretch of Manhattan where we’d long worked… crumbled.
I will tell them the story…
about how their daddy and I, having watched planes rain down from the most perfect blue sky… having watched two of the most important buildings in our city fall to the grown… having considered that hundreds, if not thousands, of people—white, black, Latino, Asian, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, atheist, male, female, heterosexual, gay, rich, poor, white collar, blue collar, Americans, immigrants, old, babies, important and invisible—died in that concrete and that twisted metal and that fire and that smoke and that utter chaos in those beautiful streets… fell to our knees and cried—cried—as we begged God to bless the victims and heal their hurts and soothe their families and open the gates of Heaven for the dead innocents whose only fault lay in getting to work on time that day.
I will tell them the story…
about how we couldn’t go back to work for several days and that when we did finally make it back, we could smell smoke and chemicals and fire and death—saw it settle like a thick fog over Manhattan—all the way over and beyond Park Avenue South and 23rd, almost three miles away… and how we wore sneakers and sweat suits to work for weeks, just in case someone else decided to fly more airplanes into more buildings and we were forced to make our way across the Brooklyn Bridge or onto a ferry headed for Jersey City.
I will tell them the story…
about how I met and fell in love with their father for the first time at City Hall, just blocks away from Ground Zero… and how we used to walk past and admire the beauty of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church on our way to lunch… and how just moments before I got married to Nick, my mother adjusted my dress and kissed my face and told me she loved me on the beautiful spiral staircase of the Marriott World Trade Center, which, because of the attack, is no more… and how Nick and I were scheduled to have a book signing on September 12, 2001 at the Borders just down the street from the towers but couldn’t because that building fell, too…
And I will tell them the story…
about how as much as this diehard New Yorker abhors the crazy zealots who attacked our city, our country, our home, our way of life, our beliefs, our freedoms, we could never use what happened on September 11th as a license to feed on hate and fear of the religions, cultures, races, ethnicities, backgrounds and differences of others… to go against every single, solitary ideal our great country was built upon… to close our eyes and ears and hearts to the American promise to open its arms to all, even those with whom we do not agree, because it is their right, as it is our tenant, to support freedom of expression and ideas and thought, even if they do not jibe with our own.
And I will tell them

To see more of what Nick and I will be talking about and doing with Mari and Lila to commemorate September 11th, visit Denene Millner's MyBrownBaby blog on's The Parenting Post, where you can read this post in its entirety. If you are so moved, please do a sistah a favor and leave a comment, tweet the post, or share it on your FaceBook page. Spread the word that HATE CAN NOT BE TOLERATED—EVER. 

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  1. Reading this makes me tear up just a lil. I think the best way to remember and honor everyone is to continue to tell the history. Where you were, what you saw, your emotions. My parents can tell me the day JFK was shot the man on the moon, and the day King was killed.

    My children should hear the experiences as well. I too can't stand the crazies as I call them.

    I appreciated this post. Thanks

  2. Thanks for this beautiful post.

    As a Muslim and Mom I my heart aches when I think that one day my son may be discriminated because a) he's Black and b) he's Muslim. However, I am reminded that there are people who are raising their children to believe in humanity and human dignity.

  3. A truly powerful and stunning post. Brought back all the feelings from that morning, that time, rushing right back. Will be sharing this on my blog and Facebook today...thanks for reminding us that we need to teach our children not only about the happy memories, but the reality of the painful memories as well. And yet, learning the pain of the past doesn't mean teaching them hate. In fact it frees us to teach them humanity. Such a good lesson to pass on.

  4. This is breathtaking and extraordinary. Thank you for these thoughts, and the reminder. Hate and intolerance can never be tolerated.
    Lots of love,

  5. yes, profound. let us teach our children to care for one another, and that it is ok to be zealous about the right things. i do not plan on teaching humanism, but godly principles in light of the God of the Bible's holiness. thank you for your memories and sharing them with us. i am pleased that i clicked on this link through my blog list this day. shalom.


  6. Dear Denene,

    I am an African-American Muslim woman. This post touched me and brought tears to my eyes. I deeply appreciate the message you are trying to relay. My mother used to always tell me, babies aren't born with prejudice, it is taught to them. I pray that one day we live in a world where people judge others based solely on the content of their characters, peace reigns and hatred is stamped out. Thank you for your support.

  7. just found you through the post there & still had to come here and thank you again. absolutely beautiful....especially in love with paragraph 6. oh for the day there is only love.

  8. This is beautiful and the picture used is also amazing.


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