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September 15, 2011

Moving On after September 11

Patricia A. Kelly

A grim anniversary, one of those days people remember in vivid detail, sharing stories about where they were when they heard. In my case, it was in the lobby of a beautiful Art Nouveau hotel in the old city of Prague.


I walked into the lobby after a last minute errand, preparing to return to the U.S. the next day. The television, dialed to CNN, blared, “America Under Attack!”


I learned a lot during my extra week in Prague, awaiting the opening of air travel to the United States. The people there, having suffered their own losses, were deeply moved by the attack on the U.S. After transferring my family to a less expensive hotel since our tour package was over, I found the owner of the new place offering us money if we needed it. At a main square in the city were thousands of mementos, flowers and photos of the World Trade Center. This was a country accustomed to war and atrocity, from Napoleon and the Battle of Austerlitz, to Nazi and Communist occupation. Their being so moved meant a lot.


This infamous date changed many things. In a way, the United States lost the innocence fostered by the past protection of geographic distance. Seen from beside a freshly-found box of bones plowed up from the Austerlitz battlefield, or from the killing field of the village of Lidice outside Prague, our innocence appeared as youthful naiveté, but lose it we did.


In response, we became united, standing for each other and for our country. We also went to war against Iraq.


Fighting back when attacked is appropriate, careful thought being always advisable.


Learning the lessons, such as the long standing Western treatment of the Middle East, leading to decades of simmering resentment, would be an additional good choice.


Other changes, in individuals and organizations, many not be well known, have also resulted from the heinous attack.


Frederick News Post columnist and physician, Dr. Syed Haque, became a devoted Fredericktonian.


Marta Mossburg, another News-Post columnist, changed careers and followed her dream of becoming a journalist who holds government accountable.


Keith Rivers, a New York Police Department officer, traded his blue uniform for pastoral garb, and now serves at the Frederick Rescue Mission.


Scott Heiferman changed from being a television and Internet geek, uninterested in anything but being left alone by his neighbors, to a neighborly guy. He founded, an organization devoted to facilitating development of community-based groups, with the idea of creating local empowerment and connection. At present, there are 100,000 groups associated with the organization.


Middle Eastern countries have changed and evolved over the past 10 years, with decreased support for al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden. Widespread, social network assisted, revolution against oppressive governments has become the norm this year. Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco and Jordan have been promised a total of $58 billion over the next two years by the World Bank, other lenders and the Group of Eight – Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Italy, Russia and the U.S. – to support them and their newly opened systems of government.


A mosque in Tucson, AZ, has lowered the wall separating women from men during prayer so that women can now see the Imam!


Muslim theologian Sheikh Tahir ul-Qadri launched a fatwa in London condemning terrorism.


McDonald’s was serving hallal hamburgers in Mecca, London and Michigan, as of 2007.


An AARP magazine article from spring 2007 tells the tale of American University Professor Akbar Ahmed and his two honors students, Hailey Woldt and Frankie Martin, who spent months traveling throughout the Middle East and India, meeting with Muslims to talk about our differences and similarities. Professor Akbar mentions his friend Judea Perl, father of Daniel, who has used his son’s murder by Muslim extremists to create a bridge of friendship.


Nader Hasan, cousin of Fort Hood’s alleged shooter, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, has created the Nawal Foundation, a pro-U.S., anti-violence organization.


The Rumi Forum, a Sufi Muslim organization in Washington continues its’ work to create inter-religious dialogue and inter-cultural harmony.


People in New York say hello to one another.


Many of us understand that today may be the last day, and end our phone calls with, “I love you.”


The United States of America, the historic melting pot, has the best chance of any country to re-create itself as a society of assimilation, a society of independent warriors for good. We are the country that managed to create a strong union of diverse people in the first place. Let this 10th anniversary of September 11 inspire us as individuals following our dreams, and as a nation, to lead the world again, and re-create that union.


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