It's September 11th, 2015.
On this day in 2001 I was in my senior modern dance class in University while planes hit New York City and the Pentagon and the middle of Pennsylvania like missiles. After class, I went up to a professor's office and it was there I heard the news. "We're under attack.." she said, and I saw the smoke and dust billowing from the first tower and then the second plane hitting on her television. That day was like a daze. Televisions were on everywhere on campus with students and profs crowded around - classes were cancelled and people sort of wandered aimlessly having no idea what to do with themselves. As insane as it felt, I knew it felt nothing like NYC and I could not fathom what someone who lived in New York must be going through
Our visiting dance professor was from NYC that week. He was several hundred miles from home, but I'm sure he felt like he was on a different planet. I can recall everyone walking into class quietly and carefully the following morning, pensive and afraid. I remember his eyes were red and his spirit was changed - his city was on fire and under attack and many people were still unreachable within New York City. He could not be with his loved ones. In a way he was a forced refugee to his city's greatest tragedy, as there were no planes flying and getting back to New York was nearly impossible. He stayed with us to teach class. I think about this now, as a teacher of movement, and I think how brave he was to stand in front of us and not lose it.
Class that day, September 12th, began not with dance, but with song. He asked us all to stand with our arms open wide to the sky, like vulnerable angels or devotees or scared and shocked humans asking 'why?' We sang Amazing Grace together out loud with our eyes closed, with the class pianist as accompaniment. We cried. We danced. We did the only thing we knew to do in that moment, which was to speak from our hearts through our bodies and our voices.
I think of this often on September 11th, this memory of singing and moving amid tears and it reminds me of the connections we have to all of humanity. In the face of tragedy we have no choice but to keep moving and speaking out, lest we get stuck or silenced or, worse, trapped by the aftermath.
We see this movement today in the refugees fleeing every day from war torn countries like Syria and Iraq, all part of a linked chain of events that do not exist independently from this fateful day. In fact the movements of Syrians across the sea and into European lands all around me are deeply connected to those planes and in a different way to our tears and dancing that day.
We hear the singing today in the voices of protestors on American soil, in an ongoing battle for justice and equality that has taken countless lives and in the name of "security" - a word that has deeply changed its meaning and weight across the world (but especially the US) since 9/11/2001. We can feel that these voices are also connected to our own singing the day after the towers fell.
We cannot dissect ourselves from one another, although we try. Some of us try very hard, as I read about with deep sadness in magazines, newspapers and online blogs and forums. But try as we might, we ultimately cannot deny that the dust that comes from those two enormous buildings still falls in our eyes all over the world, runs through our rivers and tears and blood. We cannot deny that the actions of governments and terrorist organizations and police forces and civilians all have profound effects on every human on this planet, eventually and ultimately.
I use this day to remember human connection and interdependence and not as an opportunity to create more distance or fear or anger. We all experience suffering, and some of us at much greater magnitudes, but does this not also point out our likeness and our shared humanity? Our relentless desire to seek happiness and justice is our common bond - we see it in the faces of first responders, refugees, protestors, and presidents. We see it in our allies but also our enemies.
As each tiny or enormous piece from 9/11 continues to fall to earth, we remember - we can see the long line of lives lost and battles waged and miles trekked by so many beings in order to find some other way than pain and suffering.
Amazing Grace is in our hearts. It is who we are. Some call it God. Some call it Bodhichtta. Some call it humanity. Let the dust fall and let us clean it up together rather than continue to build crumbling walls with the pieces to keep each other out. Let grace move us and sing us forth.