September 11th. It’s still strange to me that many younger people don’t have much of a reaction to that date.
I’m guessing it was the same for the Baby Boomers when I wouldn’t flinch at the mention of Nov. 22, 1963, when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated or of April 4, 1968, when the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed.
For me Sept. 11, 2001 is one of those Never-Forget days. It was when airliners flew into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, with a fourth plane crashing in a Pennsylvania field. Nearly 3,000 people were killed in the terror attacks.
The aftermath of that Tuesday morning sticks with me.
I’ve talked before about how I was part of a team that tracked all the people who were killed. And there was the incident in suburban Chicago where I was reporting on the anti-Muslim sentiments that followed.
I had to walk up to a pulsating crowd in that was chanting “Down with brown!” The experience was actually part of a chapter that I wrote for the book Word’s Matter: Writing To Make a Difference.
It’s been 16 years and that night still sits with me. I think it’s because when I was in the ugly face of racism, for once my type of brown didn’t matter. Because I was an American.
It’s a theme that I’ve noticed here in Norway too, where my type of brown doesn’t seem to matter so much. Because I am American.
Norway, as you probably guessed, has long been a very homogeneous society of blonde, Christian folks. However it’s getting browner and they’re not all Christians. As people from various parts of the world move here, there’s an increasing and interesting culture clash.
There have been several times that when I’ve walked into a store, government office or in someway interact with strangers and they give me the same scrutinizing looks that I would sometimes get back in the States. Where it’s clear, you’re not wanted here. You are the other. You are less-than.
However in Norway, when I open my mouth and my Americanism pours out, suddenly the shopkeeper or receptionist is thrilled to speak with me. Granted Norwegians aren’t known for their warm reception to strangers, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. I know racism when I see it.
I’ve had many conversations with school administrators, city workers and whatnot where as we’re talking, I can almost feel myself rising on their social economic totem pole.
It’s not something that I feel like I can eloquently write about here and now, but I want to explore this further and when I do, I’ll get back to you guys.
Right now, I’d rather just take a minute to recognize all of the mothers, brothers, sisters, fathers, husbands and wives who were killed in the attacks. It was an absolutely horrible day, but there were also beautiful moments. Like Mr. Rogers said: Look for the helpers.
And on that horrible Tuesday, there were many.
We will never forget.