Sunday was, as it should have been, a day of solemn remembrance. Many of us posted those memories to facebook as a way of sharing and memorializing. I couldn't bring myself to write out my memories of that day - they are both too much and too little to say in a facebook post. I've never been a New Yorker. I was in Columbus, OH when it happened. My roommate and I sat on our living room couch and cried while we watched the towers fall on tv, over and over until we could believe it wasn't just a bad special effect in a cheesy day time movie.
But today, I want to remember another day. A day after Sept 11th. The first day I got on a plane after it all happened. I was flying home for Christmas. The lines were long, the security procedures were still crisp with newness and a sense of purpose. We fellow passengers lined up and marched, shoes in hand, proud to be doing our little bit for duty, for country, for the safety of our fellows and ourselves.
And when I got to my seat on the plane the woman in the aisle seat was plainly Muslim. She had on the full chador and hijab minus the niqab, meaning that she was covered head to toe, with only her face and fingers showing. She was young looking. Somali. And reading from her Koran with intense devotion. She was also plainly terrified.
Was she afraid of being a Muslim on a plane full of jumpy fellow passengers? Probably. I would have been. Was she afraid to fly so soon after the September tragedies? I was. Most of us were. The tension ib the plane was palpable. Or was she simply afraid to fly? Many people are. Or perhaps she carried some other, secret sorrow that no one else could have guessed.
But there she sat right beside me, rocking just a touch, lips moving silently as she cradled her book in her hands. Another, dark haired woman joined us, squeezing into the window seat. As she buckled her seatbelt she and I exchanged quick, nervous smiles. I leaned back in my own seat, eyes half closed and prayed for safety as the engines roared underneath us. And the dark haired woman beside me pulled out her rosary, kissed it, and closed her eyes in prayer.
We rose into the sky, each of us in that row calling out with our hearts, "Hear me, merciful God. Keep me safe."