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Testify! How September 11 Politicized a Generation

In the lead up and aftermath of the 10 year commemoration of September 11, we've been bombarded with stories about certain heroes and victims of the attacks. Left out or minimized are, of course, the stories of the hundreds of thousands of Muslims, Arabs, and South Asians who've been killed, maimed, detained, imprisoned, tortured, and discriminated against as a result of the endless war the US launched in response to those attacks. Also missing are the stories of a whole group of people, mostly youth of color, who were personally transformed and politicized by events in the years following the attacks, particularly in the lead up to the invasion of Iraq. Many of these activists quickly became leaders in their schools and communities. Some of their stories are beginning to come out thanks to the efforts of alternative media sources and literary journals. What follows is three such stories by long-time Left Turn contributors. The pieces by Vasudha Desikan and Sonny Singh were first published in a special September 11 commemorative issue of the The Asian American Literary Review (Vol. 2 Issue 1.5 Fall 2011).

 

Giving Thanks

by Vasudha Desikan

There are shelves of books dedicated to September 11th. I’ve never written about it myself, because I have never felt I had anything new to offer that you couldn’t get from those books. Ten years later, I still don’t, save for all the Thank Yous I never said:

- To Thea, thank you for letting me sob in your arms when my city went up in flames. I’m sorry I made fun of you for being a farm girl from upstate New York. I was a really stupid 17-year-old. You never held it against me but instead just held and rocked me when I couldn’t reach my family. I don’t know where you are but if through some miracle of the cosmos this reaches you, know that I will never forget you...Read more

 

Healing the trauma of post-9/11 racism one story (and melody) at a time

by Sonny Singh

photo by Amy Touchettephoto by Amy TouchetteOnce the term terrorist attack was all over the headlines on September  11, 2001, something inside my 21-year-old, fresh-out-of-college self was dreadfully certain of what was coming next. Before I even had a chance to begin processing and mourning the horrific loss of thousands of lives in New York City, I was getting calls from even the most apolitical of my extended family members, urging me to be careful and “keep a low profile,” to not leave my house unless I absolutely had to. No one in my family talked much about racism when I was growing up, but suddenly it was clear that while many in my Sikh family might not share my anti-oppression, leftist politics on paper, they sure as hell knew what it meant to be a target.

For those in the U.S. Sikh community who weren’t already dreading the racist backlash immediately after 9/11, the murder of Balbir Singh Sodhi on September 15, 2001 in Phoenix, Arizona (my hometown), surely shook them to the core. Quickly U.S. flags were being distributed at gurdwaras throughout the country, stickers with slogans like “Sikhs love America” in red, white, and blue emerged on car bumpers. Suddenly we became “Sikh Americans,” a term seldom used before 9/11...Read more

 

Childhood lost and found: Ten years gone

by Francesca Fiorentini

It always seemed like an absurd exercise to recount where one was on 9/11. Some way to personalize the moment or get closer to the action. Maybe it’s just a way to make something that has been so filtered and retold, so shadowy yet simultaneously sensationalized, feel real. Sadly, the task of remembering is difficult without images of some patriotic red, white, and blue CNN graphic coming to mind. We have been told how to feel about the event (and those that followed) for so long, we rarely get a moment to do so. I choose to remember the day, and the horrors that have happened since, with this brief recollection of the moment that I became an adult.

Ten years ago today I was turning 18. It was September 10, 2001, and my friend had gotten me a mint chocolate chip ice cream cake to celebrate. Covered in balloons made of icing, it was a delicious throwback to childhood; perhaps an ironic way to honor its passing.  We ate most of it in our dorm room and smushed what was left between our fingers and into each other’s faces. I went to sleep that night in the first home away from home I had ever had: a dorm room on Washington Square Park. It was my first month of college at NYU...Read more