Friday, September 10, 2010

A Plan for Redefining 9/11









            My father, a veteran of WWII, was a Knickerbocker. A proud New Yorker who grew up on Long Island Sound, he reminded me a little bit of Frank Sinatra and even more of James Cagney in Yankee Doodle Dandy.
Dad died in September of 1999, two years before the morning of September 11, 2001. I am glad he was not here then. It would have broken his heart to see New York attacked. There is no doubt in my mind he would have demanded we retaliate by invading Iraq. No doubt he would have fully supported President Bush when he did just that, in March of 2003. Back then, frightened and horrified by the events of the day, I may have even agreed with him. One of the few times I would.
But as the ninth anniversary of 9/11 approaches, as reports of a pastor in Florida wanting to burn copies of the Koran fills the news, I find myself longing for a new way to acknowledge and honor what happened on that bright, clear September morning.  A way of remembering the victims that is more representative of the principles I believe this country was founded upon. A way that gives me hope and confidence in the future. A way that supports my belief that there are more tolerant people in the world than the extremists of the world would have us believe.
I am, of course, just one woman, in one small town in America. I have no influence or position in the world. But I know what I would do if I had the power.
I would redefine 9/11.
From this day forward I would declare it a day of world tolerance. I would then invite two representatives from every country in the world to come to New York City. They would gather at Ground Zero and offer, in their native language, their simple wish for tolerance. The two representatives would be one adult and one child. The adult would be there simply as an escort for the child who would say, for example, “I come to you from my home in North Korea to stand beside you in tolerance and peace on this day of your national mourning.” Or something to that effect.
            Imagine the power this would have. Imagine the good will it would foster, even if just for one day. No politics, no religion, just small emissaries from across the globe speaking words of hope. Promise, for a world they will one day inherit.
           My plan would be to have the children read these messages aloud each year following the traditional four minutes of silence at Ground Zero. Our country’s television stations and radio stations would air the children’s message for everyone to hear.
            It’s a large dream, I know. And though I dream big, I am not naïve. I am well aware that there are countries that would decline our invitation. I also know there are many people in this country who would vehemently oppose such a plan, preferring instead to hold on to their anger and hatred.
            This day would not be for them. It would be for the majority of Americans, like me, who are ready to turn the tragedy of 9/11 into something very different. Something the terrorists never envisioned when they flew those planes into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and the field in Pennsylvania. Something bigger and more powerful than their message of hate and revenge. Something that is inclusive and enduring.
Something I’d like to believe my father would embrace.
Tolerance. 

20 comments:

Laura Vasilion said...

Comment retrieved from Laura's e-mail

Hi Laura,
Tolerance is a message that is increasing lost with each passing Sept. 11th. Though your voice may be one of a few now, it will hopefully grow into a chorus. It's really important, I believe, that those who have a gift to write use it to change the world -- even if it's just one person's world. With your blog post you may add one more voice to the tolerance chorus.
So well done, Laura.
Lori

Laura Vasilion said...

Comment found on Facebook

Rita Dwiggins Hoover Beautiful, Laura. Keep dreaming big!

Laura Vasilion said...

Comment via Laura's e-mail

This is beautiful, Laura. Great idea. I am loving your blog. .....

I would love to see this happen. I'm thinking if you get enough momentum going, this could actually happen next year, at the 10 year anniversary. I think that's doable.

Laura Vasilion said...

Above e-mail post is from Lori Botterman

Laura Vasilion said...

Post dated September 11, 2010 at 7:12 AM is from D. C. Brod

Laura Vasilion said...

From Sue Ferrell via e-mail
Hi Laura,
I know that this choice (e-mail) is not a suggested way to respond to your blog, but my computer is giving me fits so I decided to respond in the most workable way for me. First of all, I want to say that your blog about 9/11 is wonderful: your well-written work touched me deeply. You not only said what so many of us think, "Something should be done," it offered a positive solution. And you are riding right over the this-may-not-work syndrome, you are at least giving me (and I'm sure others) the hope that it could work. So let's put Batavia on the map! We could get a group of us to go the the city and begin brainstorming a grassroots plan for next year. We could get people in our own neighborhoods or surrounding towns (representing diverse ethnic and religious groups) as the people (children and adults) who speak at the Peg Bond Center as you envision those people from other countries would speak at the actual site someday. We could get supporters who would be willing to finance some ads in the local paper, first seeking "volunteers," then ultimately advertising the "big event" in Batavia. Then somehow (where there is a will, there's a way) we could get some coverage that could possible go national. Dreams that become a reality only come from hard work and dedication to a cause. Tolerance begin!

Laura Vasilion said...

I'm in. And, I happen to know some media contacts. ;). Great idea Stephen!
Lori Botterman

Laura Vasilion said...

From Jan Hofmeister, via e-mail

Hey, I'm in 100%. If there is a will, there most definitely is a way!
I, too, am tired of the ignorance and hatred. When do we start, Laura?
your helper, Jan
p.s. Sue, great idea about starting in Batavia! :)

Laura Vasilion said...

From Jan Hofmeister, via e-mail

Laura,
Beautiful, absolutely beautiful, touching, wise, and revolutionary.
Odd to think that something based on tolerance and love seems
so radical in this society. We've changed, us Americans. I plan
to forward your essay to others, and especially my children. I
hope Jamie, Sam, and Nina spread it amongst their friends. Love, Jan

Letty Diamond said...

Never let anyone stop YOUR dream..........it can and will happen..

God Bless,
Letty Diamond

Laura Vasilion said...

From Theresa Riziki in Kenya via Facebook --

I read your article, Redefining 9/11. I love the idea of children expressing their innocent views in their own words, in their own languages what the complicated minds of * most* adults have failed to acknowledge yet it stares them in their faces! Laura, this can be done. You said you are "one woman" and I would like to remind you that the longest Journey starts with a single step. You have my support even though I'm oceans awy.

Laura Vasilion said...

Betsy Thelin Zinser commented on your link. (via Facebook)

Betsy wrote:
"Laura, I just read your post. It is beautiful. I will share your dream too."

Laura Vasilion said...

Via Christian Science Monitor Facebook page

Peter Thommen Thank you for the link, Laura!
5 hours ago · Like ·

Laura Vasilion said...

Retrieved from Laura's e-mail

LOVE this!! Thank you for including me, Laura. September 11 is a special day for our family. We have delivered breakfast to our local firehouses for the past 8 years. It is a day for my children to honor our community helpers. I agree with you that the national tone this year was quite disturbing. I love your idea. Thanks again for sharing,
Talitha

Laura Vasilion said...

Via Facebook

Susie Hess Miller I just read it too and I also agree with you!

Laura Vasilion said...

Via e-mail from Leslie Mann

North Korea would probably be the no-show, unless if some Korean-Americans could help a few of those poor people escape. But otherwise excellent idea and excellent essay. Thanks for sharing! Leslie

Laura Vasilion said...

I agree with you about North Korea, Leslie. The reason I used North Korea for an example was that it falls in line with my idealistic and impossibly hopeful dream. I do appreciate the input. Thanks for the kind words.

cmarsh said...

My Wonderful Sister - you really are a forward thinker. There's only one way to find out if it'll work - "Just Do It." I know when you're passionate about something you devote your whole self to it and this should be your next endeavor. Look at all the great feedback you've received already. Go for it Sis. You've already got tons of support.

Laura Vasilion said...

Thanks, Sis! Maybe I'll call on you for help! Really appreciate your sweet and supportive words :) Love you.

Deborah @ Antiquity Oaks said...

This is a great idea! I love it!