After 10 years, time for the healing to begin

I can hardly wait for Sept. 12.

For the last 10 years, I’ve managed to avoid almost everything related to Sept. 11, 2001. After the images of the Twin Towers cascading to the ground were seared into my memory; after agonizing over the despair on the faces of bewildered New Yorkers pasting up flyers of their missing loved ones; after trying to digest the surreal pictures of people free-falling to their deaths; and after getting through those first few horrendous days when the skies were quiet but the streets were quieter, I stopped paying attention.

People fed their insatiable appetite for news; musicians created sentimental or retributive anthems; and politicians wrapped their dishonest policies in the American flag, creating a “with us or with the terrorists” paradigm. I busied myself with other things.

But now here we are, and the 10th anniversary of the worst attack on American soil is standing as tall and formidable as the towers that once stood on the banks of the Hudson River. The clock is winding down. And I’ve found the road of denial I’ve been on has made a sudden U-turn and has dropped me right back at the maw of this interminable ache I have tried so hard to ignore.

I stopped paying attention, not because I didn’t care but because the wound that Sept. 11 opened in me was so deep and searing, it couldn’t be probed or prodded. I was — and still am — sad for the innocent people who were killed that day, for the way we recklessly traded some of our civil liberties for “security,” and for the ceaseless wars that have killed thousands of U.S. soldiers and so many more Arab and Muslim civilians — including children, oh, so many children — in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen.

But mostly I ache not because I’m Muslim and perceived to be somehow responsible for those terrorist attacks — and I’m not. Rather, it makes me sad because the national debate about Islam is filled with such self-serving rhetorical noise, misunderstanding and bigotry that people can’t hear the quiet beauty of the religion I have come to love.

I became Muslim in July 2001. Despite everything, I have never regretted my decision. Islam has empowered me as a woman. It has centered and grounded me as a human being and has turned my focus from being concerned only with fulfilling my individual desires to living as one interrelated member of the entire human family. This paradigm shift has brought with it immeasurable joy and freedom from the constraints of consumerism and the material world.

As I stare in the face of the 10th anniversary, I realize it is all these qualities that have helped me to bear the pain of Sept. 11 that I’ve been carrying all these years. Perhaps facing this pain will be easier than running from it.

It is my time now to grieve for all that we as a nation have lost. But through my tears shines my faith in God, my belief that there will be a better tomorrow, and my hope that others will be able to hear the same quiet beauty that called to me 10 years ago.

So, yes, I can hardly wait for Sept. 12. It will be the day I begin to heal.

This was first published in The Daily Journal.

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