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« Get Ready Boys, Here Come the Toys (Norman Costa) | Main | 9-11.. Random thoughts »

September 11, 2011


@ Ruchira:

"It just felt so silly to succumb to fear and paranoia about something that is a natural part of how we look and behave."

I think that is a suitable attitude.

I just returned to my apartment, not 5 minutes ago, from Ground Zero in Manhattan. Once I rest a bit and upload photos and video from today, I will post on AB. My opening line will be, "I had never felt as safe, anywhere in the world, as I did today in New York City."

Ruchira, I was in Texas too. Fort Worth. My mother died on 9/1/01, and we had scheduled her memorial service for Monday 9/10. It would give everyone who lived faraway time to get there. Except that no one liked the priest's remarks about my mother now being free to do pottery in Heaven, it was an excellent and fitting service. As you know, in Texas you tell your manager you have a funeral to go to, and there's never any trouble ducking out, so almost 400 people were there. The next morning, my sister and I were leaving our mother's house to go to the airport, and a call like the one you report from Sudhir came from my Godmother: turn on the TV, don't ask why, just do it. Later that day, as everyone knew to expect, there was indeed violence at the then-largest local mosque. That whole autumn, I saw enough of Texas to last, I then believed, a lifetime, and heard choice uncensored thinking from people who would ordinarily know better. The gist of it? Like Hell, we're going down in the name of someone else's religion. I'm very glad you didn't catch any flak that Texas day. I could not have left home feeling anything like so sure.

Here's another "where I was,what I did" anecdote to add to the list.

I was home with my kids. My son wasn't well and didn't go to school, my daughter just a baby taking an early nap. My son was parked in front of the TV, when my friend called and asked me to switch to a network channel. That's when we saw the smoke pouring out of one of the towers. A few minutes later, we saw something speed into the next and a line of fire and smoke pouring out. It seemed surreal, like someone's idea of a disaster movie, I recall saying. Less than an hour later, we watched the first building pancake down in a cloud of dust, horrified.
I was shaken by a call from my husband, saying that they had all been asked to stay in their building and not leave, as a third plane was headed, possibly towards the Pgh airport. Flight 93 went down at Shanksville some minutes later.
My husband had just been booked on a flight to NY and had been looking forward to attending a meeting at the World Trade Center. That was now out of the question.

I'd started law school two weeks before, having moved from Southern California to the Bay Area in August 2001. We got a call from my brother early that morning reporting that somebody had flown an airplane into the WTC. We have no television, so we missed the excitement of watching the endless replay. I don't think I saw any of the images for the better part of a week.

I'm sorry, but I have a hard time getting too worked up about the fear factor. I find ordinary assemblies of large crowds more frightening than a singular shocking event. From the get-go I was confused about the assigned response. Sure, I understood that school mates who had recently worked in NYC, or whose families and friends were there, were frightened and shocked. But when more than one student or faculty member made comments to the effect that, "Somehow, this makes the study of law seem so unimportant," I grew worried. Isn't this precisely why one studies and practices law? Could law be any more meaningful or purposeful than under such circumstances?

Now I understand how law operates in the face of fear, even just a discrete moment of fear, one brief tragic day. Fear, manufactured fear, is a fulcrum. When people who ought to know better reflexively question the merits of law to effect order (real order, not militaristic shows of muscle), you can be sure the party's over.

Elatia, you are right. Sudhir and I were fortunate not have faced anything ugly here in Texas because I know first hand that much ugliness was unleashed by "patriotic" Americans that day and in its aftermath. A Syrian-American neighbor (she wears a hijab) whose husband used to be Sudhir's colleague at the UT Med Center reported some stories that were very unpretty. She did not mention any physical threats but the verbal denunciations and the calculated cruelty she described, left nothing to the imagination.

Thanks for reminding us of the law, Dean. I have linked this post on my Facebook and someone wrote in the comments:

"Inter arma enim silent leges"*; (*"For among [times of] arms, the laws fall mute")

Things have gotten better of course. But for some the hangover of 9/11 is still seriously debilitating, judging by the political rhetoric of some of our leaders. Even the law can become the knee-jerk weapon of reaction against any Muslim who is seen by the paranoid as "acting up."

Really sad that your daughter felt she had to warn you and your husband about your appearance, but, unfortunately as you mentioned in your post there are some among us who act with "misguided fury" and this is what she was hoping to protect you from. Happy to note that nothing happened to either of you. Enough innocents had been hurt on that day. We will never forget.

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