Carol A. Hand
WARNING. This is an honest account drawn from my unedited reactions to the 9/11 tragedy, written while at home in the “ceded territory” of the northwoods of the central USA. It’s likely to provoke strong emotions. Please don’t feel obligated to read it.
It was September 11, 2001. I was getting ready to leave my home in Lac du Flambeau Wisconsin to find a place to live near the Ojibwe community where I would be spending the next nine months. The night before, I had returned home from an extended visit to the community. It t was dark when I arrived home. Nonetheless, I dutifully recorded my hand-written reflections from my visit in my research journal.
“ … What do I feel – I love listening to stories – but the problems I’m learning about are serious & it seems I’ve been able to gain a group of elders who are willing to share their views w/o tape recorder & as a group. They do identify themselves as those out-of-power – but it seems that is both an issue of family and age/values. They rice & do crafts & care about the future of the community.”
My hand-written notes for the next day didn’t reflect my observations from the community I had left the day before. That community would be affected in profound ways by an event that riveted their attention to the larger world, as it did to mine, to a tragedy that was new and distant, but was also a symbolic reminder of our own history of losses as Ojibwe people.
I never shared the notes I recorded that day, September 11, 2001. My journal remained tucked in a locked file cabinet where my research materials are stored. It’s been there for more than a decade – move after move. I just discovered it this week when I was looking for information for another project. I had forgotten about it. When I pulled out the bound journal, I discovered an untold story. I’m not sure if the agony that was reawakened was because of an untold story. Remembering the tragic events of that day would be enough on their own, but they also touched older memories and stories still untold. The events of that day intensified the deep, deep sadness that was already part of my experiences and my DNA.
I arose early and fired-up the gasoline-powered generator so I would have electricity to shower, pack, and get ready to hit the road. I decided to check my email just before I left…
“… I turned on the laptop, did dishes, & read my email & discovered a strange note from ILSTU [my university] abt. supporting students to deal w/ tragedy. I turned on the t.v. & became glued to the story unfolding of the 4 hi-jacked commercial jets: 2 crashed into towers of the world trade center in NYC, one into the Pentagon in DC, & one southeast of Pittsburgh – ordinary people traveling & working whose lives were suddenly ended or changed forever.
CNN, & the war-mongers of course blaming Arab Muslim terrorists & calling for revenge for “one of the worst tragedies in the history of the world.” I think of Native peoples & the death & loss & tragedies they have endured at the hands of the ancestors of those who now condemn this “dastardly deed.”
“The US is an oppressor, as were the European conquistador ancestors of those who now rattle their sabers. It is a tragic act – an inexcusable act of hatred & violence – & if it were my family on a plane, would I too want vengeance? I don’t know. I only know that I did not want to be “in the field” today. I need to reflect & balance so I can listen to others’ views without judgment or comment. I “feel” this even from different times – the links to European invasion, to Jewish imprisonment, to clear-cut forests, to children taken from the side of the road, to my grandson who must endure craziness, Can we, as a world, learn to see the wonder that could be?
“…. How can I use my research to work toward a positive goal – a vision of what could be not only for our families & communities but all families and communities?
“It is really only by chance (?) that I found the email before I left. I’m grateful for the chance to reflect. I am sorry for all of the families – the Boston link made me grateful that [my daughter] & [my grandson] traveled from there safely a week ago!
“It is a time for healing. Our greatest resources surround us – they are not to be found in illusions of “power” over others, or money, or things. A hug from a grandchild, a thank you from a child, a smile & laughter – let me offer tobacco – for my family, for those who died & were hurt & their families, & for those whose lives are so bleak that they can do this — & for the world.”
This isn’t something I would have chosen to write today, or really any other day. But the Twitter quotes listed for today’s Writing 101 assignment didn’t speak to me as someone who walks between cultures. Nor did the hundreds of other quotes I skimmed on Twitter. Maya Angelou’s came closest. The untold and unheard stories of our peoples continue to be an agony that must be borne until we find a way to give them voice, and until we know that others have really understood.
Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.