I was walking to my first class of the day, American Literature I think it was. I distinctly remember thinking how oddly quiet it was, and I took note of how many people I saw on their cellphones. Most of whom were crying. My first thought? Break-ups. College was drama, so I chalked it up to love lost. I had no idea how right I was.
My professor thought he was a closeted homosexual; he either ignored the fact or was sincerely oblivious to everyone knowing the truth. He was very passionate about literature and I could listen to him talk for hours. But on this day, 12 years ago, he started class seated at his desk with his head in his hands. He wasn’t doing a very good job of covering the tears that streamed down his cheeks, and most of us pretended not to notice because it was kinda weird to address a grown man crying right there in the middle of class. Some of the moron jocks joked that the professor’s boyfriend had broken up with him; others hoped he would forget about the 10-page essay that was due. I just really wanted to hug him.
A few minutes into class, and we were all still sitting there having accomplished nothing but idle chatter. Then the English Department secretary came into our room, handed our professor a note, and left. He opened it, read it, and immediately turned on the television. There, we saw the images of an airplane exploding into a building.
My initial reaction was it was an accident. A piloting error.
And then the next building was hit.
And then I knew. We all knew.
Our professor told everyone to go home and hug the ones we loved.
I immediately called my dad who is the best at explaining “the big picture” stuff in a way I can understand it. Despite his honorable efforts, I just kept screaming into the phone, “WHY DO THEY HATE US SO MUCH?!” I was 21 years-old, and couldn’t wrap my naïve, immature brain around such vile hatred. I almost wish I could say the same today.
In 12 years, we have learned a lot as a country, but we’ve also lost a hell of a lot as a people. Yet we’ve remained united in the face of fear and subsequent human indignity. Fear and racism and stereotyping are still among us, but so is hope and faith and acceptance. I am going to spend today remembering and celebrating the good in people because hate is a powerful danger, but not nearly as powerful as love.
“I have decided to stick to love…Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
― Martin Luther King Jr., A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches