Memories of 9/11

Memories of 9/11

September 11 2001 is a date that marks history, something like BC / AD.

September 11 2001
is a date that marks history, something like BC / AD.  The entire
world shifted on that day. The world has not been the same since. Today my
Turkish and Arab friends still are “randomly” selected for security searches.
They are treated as potential threats. No one really acknowledges that many of
them also experienced pain and sorrow due to that fateful day.

Two small
snippets occurred in my life in Istanbul, Turkey on September 12th 2001.

9/11 occurred for
us in Istanbul, during the evening hours of that day. I learned about the first
plane crash when I was buying a ticket to see a movie. The woman at the ticket
counter, upon learning I was an American, asked if I knew about the plane
crash. I rushed home after the movie, not truly able to comprehend what was
happening. As events continued to unfold, I experienced a totally surreal
disconnected feeling, that I have no need to describe. You all know what I
mean. The following day at school, many of our faculty members were gathered in
the Faculty Room listening as one of our American teachers shared her anxieties
and fears for her brother and sister-in-law who lived adjacent to the WTC. She
was crying. In fact many of us were crying, Turkish faculty and foreign
faculty. We surrounded her and comforted her. Then one of our Turkish teachers
expressed what many of our Muslim teachers were feeling, “This is not the Islam
I believe in.” All of our teachers, whether they were Muslim, Christian or Jew,
were full of deep, deep sorrow. They all shared an intimate moment of profound
pain and grief. This was not just an American tragedy. This was a world

That afternoon I
went to my Turkish dentist. He told me that he had been frantically calling a
dental school classmate who worked in New York City. She was a Greek. I asked
if I could help him with the telephone number. He took out his address book
where I immediately spotted “WTC 2” by her address. My heart sank as I shared
with him the meaning of these initials and the reason her phone was “disconnected”.
We cried together.

As we near the
end of the month of Ramadan, the month of fasting from sunrise to sunset in the
Islamic tradition, let us embrace one another in the full spectrum of our
differences. We share a common humanity and this is what we embrace with love
and compassion.


Alison Stendahl

serves with the Near East Mission, Istanbul, Turkey.  She is Academic Dean of and a math teacher at
Uskudar American
Academy in Istanbul