If a pollster asked Americans who have actually survived a terrorist attack what they thought of the current hate rhetoric from some politicians and commentators what would they say?
I’m a 9/11 survivor. I ran dust covered from debris falling from the south tower after the second plane hit. I saw people die. I saw dead bodies and body parts. I helped a woman bleeding from being impaled by metal get to safety. I watched in horror as people jumped from the burning towers - but quickly turned away because the suffering was beyond what I could manage. My neighborhood was a military zone for six months. I lost two very close colleagues on 9/11. I have also lost a military friend to this so-called "war on terror". I have, to be frank, suffered and lost profoundly.
Immediately after 9/11 I attended several memorials in New York City and support groups for people who lost loved ones. Everyone did. The love expressed in these groups among people of all different backgrounds was profound, including Muslims who had suffered equally. The moderator asked if our feelings about Muslims had changed. No one expressed ill will or hatred. I am talking about people who just lost a husband, a child, a loved one. Real loss. We all hugged, and cried, and expressed our shared love for America, New York and all New Yorkers.
The optimist in me believes this theoretical poll would reveal most survivors have a balanced view on Muslims. When you have experienced profound loss the need to understand that loss leads to the desire for answers. Why did this happen? What lead to such pain and suffering? In my own desperate search, I came to understand what the Muslim culture and faith is and isn't.
I understand why there are so many refugees. I understand what these refugees have lost. I know why they are fleeing their countries. I feel their despair.