September 11th: Ten Years Later

Being an American

Americais home and I love home. Americais like a family, you can disagree and fight amongst each other but when trouble comes we all unite.

When I think of September 11th, I remember being at work receiving the news a plane flew into one of the twin towers of the world trade center.  Hence, I work at a television station and went to a department who had TV screens in their area.  About the time I got there I witnessed the 2nd plane hit the other tower of the twin towers.  Shock!  Fear! Confusion!  In my little mind, I heard a voice “what the hell is going on this is not an accident.”  I have heard of attacks on this building before and the fear that this could be a terrorist attack shattered my world.  Oh no, there is a report of a plane near-by not responding to traffic control request.

 A plane circled back from heading west and was assumed to be heading for our nation’s capital.  Our traffic control tower was evacuated. Then, the news report that a plane went down 80 miles from where we were.  This set the tone of fear for the rest of the day.  We stayed glued to the TV news.  Eyes and mind fixed on the latest news that a plane has also hit the Pentagon.  For God sakes, what is going on!  The Pentagon, home to our nation’s military and national defense has taken a hit. Are we defenseless to stop this insanity.

By the time I got home from work it was determined that it was a terrorist attack and all air traffic has ceased.  Folks were stranded where ever they found themselves.  I had two cousins who lived on the east coast but one was on vacation in Las Vegasand the other on business in New Mexico.  Both had difficulty in getting back to their families.  After calls of concern to family members near and far, I settled down for an evening of watching non-stop news coverage.  Finally, at 11:30pm I settled down and got ready for bed.  Unfortunately, my sleep was interrupted a half hour later with physical discomfort.  My entire body is hot.  So, I tried drinking ice cold water and using a cold wash cloth to wipe myself down and now I hear my heart racing.  My heart is racing so fast I realize I must try to slow it down by taking deep breathes.  It doesn’t work.  Now, I feel like I’m suffering from shortness of breath.  Time to call 911, I need the paramedics, could this be a heart attack.  I unlock the front door in case I need someone to be able to get in to find me.  One more thing before I call the paramedics, in case I live through this experience, my health insurance requires me to call my doctor first.  The on-call doctor happens to be my primary care physician.  I tell him what’s going on, I am about to die from a heart attack.  He calmly explains, “Dear, you are having an anxiety attack.  Take Tylenol and lay down.”  I have always trusted my doctor and I did what I was told but I left the front door unlocked just in case.  The next morning, I felt relief that I had lived and September 11th was over.  But my life was never the same.

Ten years later, a plane in the sky takes on a different meaning.  What kind of plane is it? How low is it?  And, at the airport I find myself profiling and treating those around me like I work for TSA (Transportation Security Administration).  Osama Bin Laden (al Qaeda) took credit for September 11th and he was killed this year in Pakistan by Special Forces.  And as an American, I still don’t feel safe.

Education: A Way Out

My family has always preached education.  In my youth, the big deal was get your high school diploma.  My mother and father had their high school diploma. I noticed amongst my relatives, my aunts and uncles, they pushed their kids to do well in school in hopes of a scholarship for college.  So, their goal was college and mine was get the high school diploma and find a job. I was an ugly acting teenager and my mother just wanted me out of her house.  Unfortunately, my mother didn’t push us towards college even-though my brother was gifted.  All kinds of programs wanted him to participate.  Programs like upward bound, Junior Achievement and honors society.  My mother ignored those programs and had no interest in education beyond high school for us.  I chalked this up to poverty that put us at-risk.  The term at-risk refers to children who are likely to fail in school or in life because of their life’s social circumstances. It does not appear that any one single factor places a child at-risk. Rather, when more than one factor is present, there is a compounding effect and the likelihood for failure increases significantly. Poverty is considered a major at-risk factor (Leroy & Symes, 2001).  My mother’s only concern was putting food on the table, affording winter clothing and, keeping a roof over our heads because we were poor.  How did my mother not get the same message her siblings did, education is a way out. 

 It breaks my heart that our youth do not realize how fortunate they are to receive a free education (public) and opportunities to further their education beyond high school. The latest statistics show our youth, Black males in particular, in deep trouble.  Our male youths have a high rate of death, incarceration and unemployment. As a Black mother, I suspect there is a conspiracy against Black males in general.  I find it absurd the amount of guns our youth can get their hands on.  I ask a 40 year old white man; at the age of 15 could he get his hands on a gun.  His answer was yes his father’s gun.  That’s not the answer for some young Black males because a lot of their homes are single parent homes where mom doesn’t have one.  One mother told me her 15 year old son came home with a gun and she took it off him and he left to return with another one. Young Black males are killing each other at an unbelievable rate.  A Judge told a Black mother of a 14 year old, “I know you got your hands full just trying to keep him alive.” 

 Then there are the Bill Cosby’s of the world who believe the lower wrung is not doing their part to uplift the race.  I’m sorry Cosby is talking to the choir.  The very folks that are his audience are not the folks who need to hear his message. And, is it too late for the message?  The poverty programs that followed the civil rights movement helped a lot of folks get on their feet.  Once they did get on their feet, some folks left the community and took the opportunity to make a difference with them.  Do you remember President Johnson’s Great Society and poverty programs? The Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 signed by President Johnson gave us a great boost in areas of health, education, and general welfare of the impoverished. Although most of the initiatives in the Act have since been modified, weakened, or altogether rolled back, its remaining programs include Head Start and that recently took a hit economically and Job Corps.  Were we ready as a people to continue the strides made in the late 60’s and early 70’s?  After the centuries of  slavery and being told we are less than human, I think Cosby expects a lot from a race that are beaten down and their history being untold because it’s embarrassing and guilt- ridden to the powers that be. 

 Sankofa. (We should learn from the past and move forward into the future.)

Labor Day – Day Off

Today is Labor Day.  I’m glad to be off.  So, instead of 5 days, I have 4 days this week to pretend that my Blackness doesn’t matter in my workplace.

 I like the gospel song by Donald Lawrence, “Encourage Yourself” and especially the  lines:
Sometimes you have to encourage yourself.
Sometimes you have to speak victory during the test.
And no matter how you feel,
speak the word and you will be healed;
speak over yourself,
encourage yourself in the Lord.

Isn’t that what we do everyday, encourage ourselves. I don’t care what color Black you are, brown, light, next to bright, or coal Black, your day will be a challenge.  Over the years, you get use to the stress of walking into work giving co-workers hellos and waves as greetings.  And other Blacks know and respond, “…have a good day.”  In other words, if someone is let go today I hope it’s not one of us.  We are going to receive the whispering of “you are Black” in voices that pretend your color doesn’t matter because that’s the proper thing to do in the workplace.  Whether you are working in a mall store, working on Wall Street, or in an office environment – large or small, you will need to encourage yourself.  And they wonder why a lot of Black folks have high blood pressure.

We are great at hiding our pain and hurt from folks.  I believe sometimes we hide it so long that we start to believe we are ok too. Prejudice attitudes that could be generational or plain red-neck “I’m better than you because I’m white.” can ruin a workday.  Yes they are still around they haven’t disappeared as some would have you believe.  Especially, the talented tenth among us who are part of the corporation’s executive staff, who have picked up the sword to push the belief we are a nation of color.  They are spreading the hype that this nation is not Black or white.  Since, we have a Black president we are in a new era in this country. Supposedly, we are a nation of color and a nation in the post-racial era.  Bullshit!!