Aftershocks

From: Laura Anne Gilman
Subject: I wonder…
Date: 12 Sep 2001 12:02:12 GMT
How the events of the past 36 hours would have been different without the Internet. No Instant Messenger, no e-mail that can slip through jammed phone circuits, no check-in web sites for people to make contact… and that’s not even taking into consideration the countless newsgroups and bbs where people are greiving together, or the news snippets carried across the world.

Where there is connection, there would have been a space much like the one in the skyline today…
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From: Laura Anne Gilman
Subject: songs
Date: 12 Sep 2001 20:43:45 GMT

A local radio station has been playing dedications and “appropriate” songs all day. it’s been comforting, even when several of the songs (Dire Straits’ “Brothers in Arms” for the military and emergency crews) sent me back into tears.

Right now they’re playing Styx’s “Suite Madame Blue.” And I had to come to a full stop. My throat is swollen, my eyes filled with tears, and my heart feels like someone has it in a fist. Not from sorrow, although that’s there as well, but from pride. I think I may have turned a corner just now. ‘Bout frelling time.

“Time after time I sit and I wait for your call I know I’m a fool but why can I say Whatever the price I’ll pay for you, Madame Blue…

Red, white, and blue, the future is all but past So lift up your heart, make a new start And lead us away from here.”

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From: Laura Anne Gilman
Subject: Keep In Mind
Date: 13 Sep 2001 05:52:47 GMT

We will be judged, not only how we take care of each other, but how we don’t. Americans are Americans first, not Arab-Americans, or Palestinian-Americans or any other hyphen.

Be gentle with each other. And be careful of how you speak in front of impressionable ears and minds.

– Laura Anne
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From: Laura Anne Gilman
Subject: Remember
Date: 13 Sep 2001 10:31:45 GMT
A friend sent me a photo entitled “Remember.” It is a beautiful shot of the lower Manhattan skyline, pre-Tuesday. Seeing it brings the ache full front and center.

The pain I feel at the loss of buildings, even more so that the growing death toll, worried me for a while. But it’s a symbol of all those losses; there are too many dead and missing to comprehend. Individual numbers overwhelm and drown you. The Towers are easier to understand, if not to comprehend.

And I miss them. Oh, how I miss them.

Remember. Remember, remember, remember…

– Laura Anne
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From: Laura Anne Gilman
Subject: The View From Here (a forward)
Date: 13 Sep 2001 11:36:16 GMT
this came to me via a friend. Permission has been granted to forward it, so long as nothing in the text is changed.

Although it changes nothing of the terrible crime that has been committed, let us remember that there will be victims, and fallout, everywhere from the actions of September 11th.

“5:00 pm, Wednesday, September 12th, 2001.

I walked into my classroom this morning, and found a room full of scared, worried young women. Classes have only barely started for this semester, so my students didn’t know me that well yet. As soon as I came in, they asked, “Are you from America?” When I said yes, they asked if I had friends or family in Washington or New York. I told them I had friends in Washington, but they were alright. I said I’d been awake until three am, to make sure everyone was safe.

And then we just sat and talked. Forget the lesson plans, and getting into the meat of the semester. Today wasn’t a day for teaching. The quiz, the editing and the research guidelines just didn’t matter today.

Being a teacher, part of my job is to help my students make sense of the world. Since my students are University age, at that stage where one minute they are mature young adults and the next minute children, I’m here to help guide them as they sort out their worlds for themselves – along with teaching the subject matter in my class description, of course. How can I help them make sense of this when I can’t make sense of it myself? I’m in just as much shock as they are. I want someone to say it’s alright, just like they do. Nothing in this is straightforward. All the emotions are complex. Relief that my own family and friends are safe combined with worry for those whose aren’t, or remain unknown.

The most striking emotional cocktail of this for me is the reassurance and heartbreak at how desperately my students want this not to have been done by Arabs.

You see, I teach in the Middle East. All those young women who are my students are Arabs. Muslims. I’ve seen and heard of people in the US saying “Damn Arabs” or “Damn Muslims” or “Damn Middle Easterners”. That, and worse.

To some of you, Arabs may be nameless and faceless, counted as suspicious or dangerous. Easy to blame. To me, Arabs are my students and their families. Arabs are as diverse a group as any other. Hating them all would be like hating all Europeans for the atrocities in Kosovo or Serbia. Let me make them less faceless for you.

My students are young women. Like University students anywhere, they’re worried about grades and exams, about course requirements and majors, and, of course, about juggling their classwork with their social lives. They have dreams and plans, about their careers, about marriage and family, about places they’d like to travel to. They may dress differently than a group of women the same age in the US, but underneath the shayla and abaya, they’re not very different at all.

Today, they’re in shock. They’re worried about war. They’re concerned about their relatives who are in the States. They remember the Gulf War, and they’re afraid this will be so much worse. Our University is near an airport. Normally, they just ignore the planes as they take off and land. Either they pause until the sound has died down, or try to talk over it. Today, they flinched. I’ve never seen the planes make them nervous before.

They’re horrified by the attacks on the United States. While they are angry that the US appears to support Israel, they cannot accept what has happened. My students do not celebrate this, nor do they take it lightly. They say it is harram – forbidden by religion. The deaths of so many innocents can never be acceptable. Not for any reason.

My students are still learning English. They had to struggle, sometimes, to express themselves. They know how to talk about classes and majors. They know the vocabulary for the lives of University students. They don’t have the words for the deaths of innocents. I find it tragic that they had to learn the word “innocent” under such appalling circumstances.

I can no more make sense of this for you, or for myself, than I could for my students. All I can do is pray for the victims, and pray for Peace.

Chris Tremlett
English Language Center
College of Arts and Sciences
Zayed University
Dubai, UAE”

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From: Laura Anne Gilman
Subject: Beginning recovery
Date: 13 Sep 2001 19:44:14 GMT
This morning, I was sitting working at the computer when I heard a siren in the distance. My pulse sped up, breathing became difficult, and my eyes watered. This afternoon, as I drove back from the bus station (Jo Sherman has fled the dust of the city for what we’re calling Camp Fresh Air), we heard an odd noise. My heart in my throat, I pulled over, looking for the emergency vehicle.

It was only the wind screaming through a partially open window. But Jo and I both had minor panic attacks.

At this point, I’m beginning to wonder if the jokes I made about PTS syndrome maybe weren’t jokes after all.

We got home safely, and had a nice, soothing chat with Evil Brother James on IM. He made us giggle, and occasionally laugh out loud, and once or twice caused a snarf. Better therapy, money cannot buy. Therapy for him as well, I suspect.

During the chat, a plane lumbered by overhead, proof positive that Newark has reopened. I stiffened slightly, but otherwise remained calm. Another plane, during dinner, had much the same effect. Heightened tension, but no panic.

And so, recovery begins.

Tomorrow, I have learned, our office will be open. Another step. A small, hesitant, carefully-taken step. But a step forward.

– Laura Anne
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