911 at an International School for Autism

Today, 9/11/11,  it is natural to feel the need to commemorate the ten-year anniversary of 9/11/01. Listening to the radio, watching the news, checking Twitter and NYT apps, I am taken back to that week along with everyone else.

The day before the attack, we took our then 14-year-old daughter back to school after the 4 week-long summer vacation. We were exhausted and already missing her.  Her school was the Boston Higashi School, an international school for autism with students from all over the world, all religions and all classes.  We had all come together to find something that worked for our children.  “Education from the Heart”, the school fostered self-esteem and self-control through a balanced program of physical education, art and music.

During opening ceremonies that day, I cried, as usual, singing our national anthem and facing our flag.  Not a traditional patriot, I am nonetheless a strong patriot and what I saw before me exemplified the ideals that I love most about America.  There were parents with head scarves, turbans, saris, wigs and hats, t-shirts with slogans and 3-piece suits.  Muslims, Hindus and ultra-orthodox Jews mingled with Japanese and Chinese and Hispanics.  The typical Boston area white Irish-American was also represented along with all kinds of languages and cultures.  This was why I loved America, here, right in front of me, on this gym floor!

The following day I was back at work, focused on a difficult procedure in the operating room when the circulating nurse came in and announced the first plane hitting the World Trade Center.  When the second plane hit and we knew it was terrorism, my first thought was “those f…ing taliban, we should nuke them”; this from a pacifist and buddhist, my visceral reaction to the terrorists.  How dare they try to ruin my utopian vision of the perfect America!

Ten years later: I have not left the USA since George Bush invaded Iraq.  It is not fear but embarrassment that keeps me home.  Torture, untold numbers of civilian deaths, a divided country here at home, these are my terrorists now.  It is not likely that we will win this “war” in my lifetime.  The terrorist act may have succeeded; it has changed my view of America forever.

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