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9/11 Ten Years Later

Kyle and the 9/11 Firefighters

Kyle and the 9/11 Firefighters

There are some things I never forget. The day President Kennedy was assassinated. The day the Challenger exploded. Columbine. What I was doing on 9/11/2001. My husband called me and said turn on the television. I got there in time to see the second plane hit the tower. I watched with my hand over my mouth then turned to my little son and said “Kyle, we’re going to war.” All day long I walked around in a daze. That evening I was called by NBC News. Justice correspondent, Pete Williams, had been vacationing in Yellowstone National Park. He could not get back to Washington so he went live from KUSA in Denver. I was his producer. I wasn’t at Ground Zero. I wasn’t among my east coast colleagues. After a couple days Pete finally was able to get home and I returned to my routine and family.

But 9/11 wouldn’t let go of me. I was consumed by the reports and confused by my feelings. I was feeling detached, panicky and somehow responsible. The more I listened to television and radio the more I felt that the United States had somehow brought this upon ourselves. I needed to bear witness to get some perspective. I decided to go to New York and see things for myself. No one I knew would travel with me so I took my son, Kyle, the same one who looked at me confused when I said “we’re going to war.” We arrived in New York City one month to the day after the attacks. My family was incredulous that I would take him there. My husband’s family was furious that I would put him in danger. What kind of mother was I?

I was afraid to get on a plane. I pushed through it. I was afraid of the Muslim cab driver who picked us up from LaGuardia Airport. I pushed through it. He was as shellshocked as everyone else. I was stunned by the incredible compassion of New Yorkers who were so wounded yet so grateful that we had come. Even the homeless thanked us from their street corners for helping New York get back on its feet. Broadway put on its musicals but theatres were empty. The city was edgy. There were anthrax scares. We went to Ground Zero while it was smoldering. The facade was still standing, crews were still combing through the wreckage and the smell of death remained in the air. We read the flyers with faces of the missing. We saw the flowers and makeshift memorials. I was stunned into silence. I finally cried uncontrollably when we went to Grand Central Station and saw the bulletin boards full of pleas from families desperate to locate loved ones. It was all so much to take in.

I wanted Kyle to know what was lost on that day and what we still had. We couldn’t go to the Statue of Liberty so I took him for a ride on the Staten Island Ferry so he could at least get an idea of what this country stands for and why this attack on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, Shanksville, Pennsylvania, the very essence of America, was so traumatic. And the most profound thing happened. On board the ferry were so many firefighters. They were all from out of town. They had come to attend funerals of their fallen brothers because there simply were not enough firefighters left to honor so many who had died. They were riding the ferry from one funeral to another to give their brothers a proper farewell. Kyle stood among them and had his picture taken. Kyle and the heroes. Later when we were in Midtown Manhattan we paused and watched a funeral processions for a fallen policeman. It was so somber. There was so much sadness in the air.

Now ten years later we pause and reflect and watch memorial tributes on all the television networks then on September 12 we will quickly get on with our lives. So much has changed as a result of 9/11 but so much has really stayed the same. I think most people wish it would just go away and we no longer would live with this cloud of vulnerability. The memories are so painful. But of course it won’t leave us and we persevere. It never will go away and we shall always remember the day and what we were doing when we first found out. I will always be grateful for that time I spent with my son in New York in October 2001. It gave me a chance to grieve and such a sense of clarity. The United States did nothing to provoke this. Did nothing to deserve this terrorist attack at the very soul of America. And yes we did go to war. At the moment it seemed so right. So necessary. We’ve had a lot of time to reflect on that too.

Going to New York after 9/11 was life altering for me and one of the most profound teaching moments for my child. A couple years ago I took my other son, Blair, to New York City. It was a much more festive time but we still went to Ground Zero. It’s a construction site now with a memorial to the side. I kept babbling about memories from the trip I took with Kyle. I wanted Blair to feel it too. We went to the little church next door that withstood the blast and is a memorial to this day. A choir was singing in memory of the fallen, all those years later. There were touching memorials to the New Yorkers and first responders who died. And we went to the Statue of Liberty so he would know what was lost and what this country still stands for to Americans and the world.

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Moderate Muslims

Eboo Patel writes a column featured in USA Today reminding people that moderate Muslims are also in the fight against extremists.  They believe terrorism goes against the teachings of Islam and call on all Americans not to let the radicals make us fearful and divide us from good neighbors who also are longing for peace.

http://blogs.usatoday.com/oped/2010/01/column-moderate-muslims-were-everywhere-.html

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.


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Acid Attacks: Juliette’s Story

Many of you have read the story I wrote about a courageous acid attack victim from Kampala, Uganda named Juliette on this blog.  HDNet’s World Report aired an “in her own words” piece about Juliette that I produced for the show on April 14.  It is a very powerful story and Juliette’s ability to forgive her attacker and move on is inspirational.  I hope you are as transformed by Juliette’s story as I was and as horrified by this unbelieveable terrorism against women in the developing world.  More often than not men go unpunished for this.  If we raise up our voices loud enough perhaps we can prevent more women like Juliette from becoming victims of this terrible violence. 

http://blip.tv/file/1988082/

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Juliette’s Acid Attack

Juliette dreams of someday marrying a nice man.  One unlike the monster who poured acid on her in a jealous rage in July 2007.  We are sitting with this young woman, just 19 years old, on a porch near a church in Kampala, Uganda.  Juliette is beautiful on the side of her face that she shows to the world.  Her eyes are bright and she has a radiant smile.  The other side of her face she covers with long braids.  It prevents the fearful looks from those who pass her by.  It covers the half of her face that was destroyed in the brutal acid attack that sent her to the hospital for five months and disfigured her for life.   “I open?” she asks.  She lifts her hair to show what remains and tells her story. 

 

Juliette shows her damaged face from an acid attack.

Juliette shows her damaged face from an acid attack.

 

Juliette speaks about the hard life that made her run away from her village and head to Kampala.  Her dad died when she was a baby and her mom passed away when she was 9.  She was left with an aunt who thought she was a burden.  Juliette was beaten and tormented so at 13 she took off.  In Kampala she made some friends and they would go clubbing.  She met a guy, got pregnant at 14 and had a daughter the next year.  The guy was into drugs.  She didn’t love him.  At 18, she wanted a new life.  When Juliette finally decided to leave him he attacked her.  Juliette speaks about that night in a strong voice.  She doesn’t want you to turn away.  She wants you to hear the story about how he came to her door with battery acid and changed her life forever.

“Before I was looking good I was having my two eyes two ears two nose but now I’m like this.  I didn’t know the time would come like this you know when he poured acid.  It was like a dream.  When he poured me he bring it in a cup then he poured and said let me finish you you fool.  After pouring me he went he run.  I was alone in my room it was really hot.   More pain more pain.” 

Juliette endured excruciating skin grafts.  She lost her eye, her ear, and has burns on her neck and leg.  Her faith in God got her through the ordeal and, despite the agony she endured, she forgave her attacker.  “When I was in the hospital that boy came who poured acid.  He said do you love me yes or not but in my heart it was good I was saying my God no matter what I forgive him.  Even though he poured me acid I forgive him.  I said God you create him and you create me before so if you decide me to look like this I’ll continue life.  I can’t kill myself.  I said God let me forgive that guy.” 

Juliette says there are hundreds of women in Kampala who have suffered a similar fate to hers.  In the ward where she recovered there were 30.  As is often the case, the man who attacked Juliette was never prosecuted, but because of the courageous testimonies of women like Juliette, this most brutal of human rights abuses is being exposed.  In Tehran, Iran, a spurned suitor who threw acid and blinded a woman will literally give an eye for an eye.  Islamic law is allowing Ameneh Bahrami to see her attacker blinded.  If the sentence is carried out he will have the same acid placed in each of his eyes and she will see justice.  In Kandahar, Afghanistan, 10 Taliban militants have been arrested for throwing acid in the faces of schoolgirls simply because they chose to get an education.  The men each got paid the equivalent of $2000 US for the November attack.  Students are afraid to return to the Mirwais Meena girls school.  Nicholas Kristof, the New York Times columnist, has been reporting about acid attacks in neighboring Pakistan where 7800 have been documented in Islamabad alone.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/30/opinion/30kristof.html  

Juliette walks in the world and hopes people will look past her damaged face and see the beauty inside her.  She sings songs that honor God and Africa.  She finds comfort in Jesus and her church, in an acid survivors support group and in BeadforLife (www.beadforlife.org) which has taught her to make bead jewelry so she can earn a living and take care of herself and her daughter.  Juliette hopes a doctor will help repair the damage from the attack and even dreams she will be married someday.  She begs people not to reject victims of acid attacks.  And Juliette plans to give back to others too.  “In my future, I’d like to help orphanage, lame people, widow.  I want to help some of them when I’m somebody, I’m somewhere.  I’d like to help to show them they’re still someone.  They can do more.  They can go somewhere.”

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Mumbai On My Mind

I’m taking this attack in Mumbai personally and it makes me sick. I just returned from India on Monday after an amazing few days in Delhi. We went to attend the wedding of Pravheen and Akanksha. We made Indian friends and were treated like honored guests. As Westerners we were welcomed with open arms by a warm and gracious people. We were invited into their homes and they took care of us as though we were family. We toured the city and took in the sights and the chaos. In Old Delhi I asked a Muslim man if I could take his picture and he kindly obliged. He asked me if I was Muslim or Christian. I was unsure what to say. I told the truth. No. I am a Jew. It didn’t seem to matter and when he walked away I flashed him the peace sign.

Men in Old Delhi

Men in Old Delhi

And now this. This horrible wreckage caused by extremists. Random and ruthless. Lashing out at innocent people from all over the world. I hope in our collective outrage all the nations that were victimized stand together to fight back against these people who continue to drive stakes in the hearts of peace loving men and women. We are exhausted by fear. We are tired of seeing people dead in the streets from senseless violence and hatred. When are we going to put deeds behind our words of condemnation? Who cares if we condemn the violence? What good does it do if the people of the world don’t demand once and for all that it end and take action to insure it stops happening? I didn’t make it to Mumbai but my thoughts and prayers are with the people who were there and I’m taking the attack against them very personally.

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com