These are our brothers and sisters, our mothers and fathers, our children and elders. But for the grace of Spirit, God, Allah, some other deity, or nothing but fate goes each of us.
I say these words over and over. On this day, I'm going to say them more bluntly. Because nine years ago, it was:
And today, it is:
No us. No them. Just human beings, desperate for help.
Today, the American airwaves will be devoted to reliving the events of nine years ago. It's the same every year now: a day-long media orgy of that purports to give voice to Americans' grief and sorrow - and does not a little to stoke the embers of rage that are always ready to burst back into full flame.
I had ties to people at both the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. A former colleague lost his life that day, for the purest of reasons: Although it was not his job, he ran into the remains of Tower One to help his former coworkers try to save a building full of strangers. That's where he was when the second-floor mezzanine collapsed on top of him. His former coworkers made it out; he didn't.
That, to me, should be the real legacy of 9/11: the instinctive urge to help another human in need.
Not the hapless quest for ever more security. Not the need to point fingers, levy blame, and cast aspersions. Not a continual cultural identification with victimhood. Just the compulsion to bestow compassion, to alleviate suffering, to save a life - wherever the need arises.
In recent weeks, I've experienced a surge in disgust at the attitudes of some in this country. The opponents of the Park 51 Community Center, and the craven politicians and pundits who exploit and encourage racism and religious bigotry for personal gain. The small, petty little man with the shriveled and blackened heart who seeks to line his pockets and arrogate to himself faux spiritual "authority" by torching the sacred texts of those of another faith. And the people who demonize desperate and dying Pakistanis with childishly vulgar, hate-filled epithets - people who say things like this, appended as comments beneath videos related to Pakistan flood relief efforts:
"fuck da bitches of porkistan burn da koran everyday!"
"pakistanis deserve death like dogs."
"What a retarted ass muslim cock sucking bitch. fuck angelinie jolie. go shove a quran up your pussy and suck allahs shriveled penis. by the way muslims need to get fuck up here in america. Lets stand against them and detroy their fukin mosques and fuckin rag head dirty filthy asian mutts of the face of America. Go back to your own fuckin country, we americans will not tolerate muslims in america. FUCK YOU"
You know what? I'm an American. Hell, I'm probably more "American" than the idiot who posted that last bit of offal, since my ancestors have been here more than 10,000 years. And as an American, I have to say this:
We won't tolerate your bigotry in America. Not now; not ever again.
And today, as we're mourning those who died on, or as a result of, the 9/11 attacks, perhaps we can spare a thought for the Muslims who lost their own lives in those same attacks. Of the nearly 3,000 people who lost their lives that day, some 60 of them were at least Muslim. That's roughly 2% of the total. And indeed, that's roughly correlative to the percentage of Muslims in the U.S. population as a whole: Of the total U.S. population of more than 310,000,000, the best estimates place the total number of Muslims in the U.S. between 6 and 7 million - or some 2% of the total U.S. population.
There's someone I'd like you to meet. His name was Salman Hamdani. Born in Pakistan, Mr. Hamdani immigrated to the U.S. with his parents when he was a year old. He lived virtually all of his 23 years as an American.
A lab technician, Mr. Hamdani was also trained as an EMT, planned to enter medical school, and was a member of the NYPD's cadet program. On September 11, 2001, while commuting from his home in Queens to his job in Manhattan, Mr. Hamdani saw the Trade Center towers aflame, and raced downtown to lend a hand. While working to save lives, the north Tower collapsed, instantly entombing him in a makeshift grave of tons of rubble, twisted steel, and toxic dust.
Six long, agonizing months later, his remains would finally be identified - all 34 pieces of them. But not before Rupert Murdoch's New York Post seized an opportunity to slander his memory - and further wound his family - by running a story about him under the headline "Missing — or Hiding?"
Mr. Hamdani's mother, who made it her mission to ensure that her son's name was cleared publicly, and that the world would know that he died an American hero, is now being forced by the uproar over the Park 51 Community Center to relive the pain and isolation of that period:
"At least there was empathy then. I got tons of support. Now I'm getting hate mail," she said.
She has taken on the Park 51 issue publicly, despite the expressions of hatred her stance has garnered:
When the Islamic center became an issue, she was the only Muslim 9/11 family member to step forward. In June she spoke at a community planning board hearing, as opponents jeered.
"My legs were shaking," she says. "But I had a mission: to honor the memory of my son, and to heal the wounds of 2001."
After appearing on television, she got hate mail at home on Long Island. One letter said, "Go back where you came from." Another said, "Not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims."
Several other Muslim Americans died that terrible day. Some of their stories are here, in brief accounts. Ray Hanania tells the stories of other Muslims who died as a result of 9/11 - at the hands of bigots - here.
[Mr. Hamdani's mother] says the true martyrs of 9/11 were not the men who piloted planes into buildings, but their victims: "They gave their lives doing what they believed in."
The martyrs were Salman, and all the others born in faraway places with unusual names. "They died for one reason," she says. "Not because they were Muslims or from Pakistan or anywhere else. They died because they were Americans."
On this day, of all days, we owe it to Salman Hamdani - and to the other Muslim Americans who died on September 11 and in the days to follow - to remember and honor their sacrifice.
How? How about, as I said above, by following the urge to bestow compassion, to alleviate suffering, to save a life - wherever the need arises? And that need is nowhere stronger on this day than in Mr. Hamdani's homeland of Pakistan. Bear witness, here:
The eyes see. The ears hear. Yet, somehow, the mind struggles to grasp the full dimension of this catastrophe.
Almost 20 million people need shelter, food and emergency care. That is more than the entire population hit by the Indian Ocean tsunami, the Kashmir earthquake, Cyclone Nargis and the earthquake in Haiti — combined.
At least 160,000 square kilometres of land is under water — an area larger than more than half the countries of the world.
A PERSONAL REQUEST FROM AJI:
Help Pakistan! is a group dedicated to getting needed humanitarian support to flood-ravaged Pakistan, and to disseminating information pertaining to the floods to the Daily Kos community at large. Our goal is to get aid to the people who need it most.
If you have a negative comment pertaining to Pakistan, its people, its culture, or its relationship with the United States, please refrain from making it here. This is not the appropriate venue. If you wish to discuss those issues, please write your own diary. These diaries are explicitly dedicated to humanitarian relief.
If you would like to be a part of Help Pakistan!, please click the picture at the very bottom of this diary. We would love more volunteers to help us with the burden of posting a diary every day.
As I said above:
These are our brothers and sisters, our mothers and fathers, our children and elders. But for the grace of Spirit, God, Allah, some other deity, or nothing but fate goes each of us. And someday, we just may be the refugees who need the world's help to survive the ravages of climate change.
So please, dig deep. Even $5 will help someone. And it may do more than just help - it may save a life.
Indeed, $5 will help save a life: It will buy one LifeStraw, ShelterBox's personal water purification system, which will last one person for a year.
Note: Numerous NGOs are doing important work that may benefit Pakistan indirectly. However, the goal here is direct support, so this list includes only organizations that are actually on the ground in Pakistan. Use due diligence in donating to any unknown group. With those caveats, here are some ways that you can make a difference now:
AmeriCares: Medicines, medical supplies and equipment, nutritional support, etc.
Direct Relief International: Mobile health teams and medical supplies, including Pedialyte and antimicrobials.
Human Development Foundation: Relief/reconstruction, including clean water, supplies, disease prevention, sewage disposal, temporary school facilities.
Islamic Relief USA: $2 million Pakistan campaign, including on-ground needs assessments; aid distribution; general relief.
Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders): Medical care; clean water; supply kits, including mosquito netting, tarps, blankets, hygiene supplies, clothes.
Mercy Corps: Water supply kits, including tanks, purification tablets, filtration units; food supply kits, including rice, oil, staples; tool kits.
Oxfam International: Hot food; clean water; boats for search/rescue; installation of tanks and toilets; sanitation kits; hygiene supplies; cash-for-work programs.
Red Crescent: Emergency services; food packs; bulk rice; tents; other supplies; help with field operations, including shelter, water, sanitation, logistics, other relief.
Relief International: Distributing "Survival Kits," including dishes/utensils; water purification tablets; cooking stove; jerrycan; floor mat; mosquito netting; hygiene kits; etc.
ShelterBox: Distributing water carriers; filtration systems; ShelterBoxes, including 10-person partitioned weatherproof tents, insulated ground sheets, thermal blankets, mosquito netting, tool kits, stoves, dishes/utensils, water purification supplies, children's kits, etc.
UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees): Through partner NGOs, distributing tents, sheeting/tarps, cooking sets, buckets, sleeping mats, blankets, etc.
U.S. State Department Texting Program: Forwards $10 donations to UNHCR for distribution of supplies in two provinces; text "SWAT" to 50555.
Some of us at Daily Kos use a Google group to help organize for the crisis in Pakistan. Anyone who would like to get involved or get alerts when a new HELP PAKISTAN diary is posted, please join.
(CLICK THE PIC)