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September 12: Standing for Our Future

The truth is, I was really scared about the 10th anniversary of 9/11.  I was afraid that it would not only be a time to remember and mourn, but also a time of vitriol and hate – especially targeting Muslims. 

My friends have told me about what it is like to be Muslim in the US today. Each of them is a successful professional with a family and good job, and warm, friendly social life.  But the mothers worry about when their children will realize that Osama bin Laden said he was a Muslim (really, an extremist).  They worry how they will learn about 9/11, and what their friends will say to them.  One friend parked next to an elderly white couple at a fancy mall. They looked at him funny, so he turned back after entering the mall, just to check.  Next thing he knew, his car was keyed, and the elderly couple was gone.

So, I was scared about 9/11 this year.  But Tanenbaum is founding member of Prepare New York, the group of wonderful organizations that pooled their efforts to make sure that division would not occur. 
 
One of the things we did was Ribbons of Hope. There are12 panels to represent September 12th – the new day, after 9/11.  A new day for new beginnings.  We had ribbons of different sizes, colors and widths, and people wrote messages and tied them to the panels. The panels were in the shape of the World Trade Center, but the symbolism of hope overtook that reminder, as colors flew from them. 
 
Over three days, and through the month before, we  got ribbons from people across the globe.  We think there will be 20,000 on when the final shipments come in.  Every panel is full of ribbons with personal messages of remembrance and hope.  They’re pretty, yes, but even moreso, the words are powerful.  So many in different languages talking about peace.  So many languages – one woman told me she wrote her message in Japanese and in English.  Another wrote in Russian, another is Spanish, French, Korean, Norwegian…   
 
I was there for a lot of the day on Sunday.  The people who came were somber.  Many passersby stopped and joined us by writing a message.  One man, with his adult children, so moved me that I thought I would burst.  I asked him if he would join us in a message from his heart, a message of hope.  “I suspect you could convince me,” he said.  And that was when I realized he was wearing a worn tee shirt with a photograph of a woman with curly hair.  1949 to September 11, 2001, it said.  And her name.  I looked at him, and told him how sorry I was.  He took the ribbon and the pen.
 
And I walked away, and cried.  Again.  The only difference was this time, I also had hope.  Because I felt like he was with me, standing for our future.