The Day After

Friday, September 12, 2014

Photo credit: Heather Hoppe at Sideways Sunrise

I have a lot of questions about day(s) after. Most of that thinking is about the day after the revolution than the day after my holiday vacation, but both are equally valuable.

Today is the day after the anniversary of 9/11 and, in my experience, the day occurred without more than a blip. Even in NYC, there are large amounts of people that aren't being affected by the constant reminders to "never forget." And yet there are also folks that are acutely aware every year when the date comes up; their families have been directly affected by the loss and helplessness of the moment itself or they've been impacted by the very real hate and violence that happened in its aftermath.

Perhaps it's the healer in me, but the days after always make me think about wellness. What kind of world do we envision, for ourselves and our communities? This thought process has made me feel conflicted -- apart from the violence that comes from "never forgetting" a narrow messaging around 9/11 (read: Islam and anyone read as a "foreigner" is our enemy), there is a genuine helplessness lurking in our collective memory. That helplessness affects how our communities participate in their own healing.

The day after can be one of disaster or resilience. Often, it is both.

As a 5th grader in the Seattle area when the actual event occurred, I remember having a collapse in perspective; in my innocence, I thought that the Space Needle would go down next. But out of that youthful confusion, I grew in sharpness against the Islamophobia I'd seen around me. I gained a specific type of political education, and stubbornness. I never put my head down or took the advice to hide my Islam, and I was rewarded with being able to participate in some of the most amazing community building efforts and activism. In a confusing way, I owe something to that event 13 years ago -- it has sparked many many good questions.

How do we learn to trust again after the immediate crisis has passed? I have the privilege of being physically safe for the most part, and I am at a point in my life where I feel that I'm not just surviving. And yet, there is still this edge of survival mentality that creeps into my everyday life -- from the way I pack my bag in the morning to the way in which I approach responsibilities. I am always planning for the worst, and I am ready to leave at a moment's notice.

I want to live these days after with a renewed sense of vitality. I want to use these critical anniversaries not only to mourn the suffering we have faced, but to recommit to modeling wellness for myself and for my community members. The only way that we'll create a world that will hold us all with the same care/safety is to struggle towards wellness, to fight for it whether our bodies are on the line or whether we are modeling what health really looks like for people that have faced so much oppression.

I am still struggling with how to do this. My questions are still the same, though I have collected a few semi-satisfying answers. For me, the process of trust looks like letting go of some of my old coping mechanisms. I am curious to know what others need in order to feel more whole.

On the day after 9/11, I am getting up to go to work again and feeling tired, but blessed. I am learning as I go.