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Perspective: Commemorating Life

Faris Mohammed

The morning of September 11, 2001, my wife called me panic-stricken and asked, “Oh my God! Are you watching CNN?” As soon as I turned the channel I saw the unforgettable, iconic image of one of the World Trade Center towers with a thick billow of smoke wafting from it. Then, the world saw a second plane hit the other tower. Then people jumping to their deaths. Then, the towers tumbled to the ground. I found myself weeping at the devastation.

I, like millions – no, billions -- of others had never seen that degree of carnage, only to be further rocked by another plane crashing into a field in Pennsylvania, and another into the Pentagon. Someone executed the most aggressive attack against any nation and it seemed for a moment the Earth stopped spinning on its axis.

But that was not the worst part of that day for my family and me. As I sat with horrified fascination in front of my TV, my mom was being told by her doctor that the growth found on a scan was in fact cancerous. My world stopped on its axis, again.

I don’t believe in the idea of hierarchies of pain. You know, “this experience is worse than that one.” Thinking like that stifles the humanity in the suffering of others. I prefer to say that on September 11, 2001, the world stopped turning on its axis many times that day, for each of us.

The horror of 9/11 can be crushing. So, I would rather commemorate the resilience of life itself and hug my mom for being 20 years cancer free.

I’m Joseph Flynn and that is my perspective. Peace to everyone, and I love you Mom.

Joseph Flynn is the executive director for equity and inclusion in the Division of Academic Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and an associate professor of curriculum and instruction.