Tuesday, September 15, 2009

My Memories of 9/12

This is a guest post by Genma Holmes

Genma Stringer Holmes author of blog Genmaspeaks and syndicated writer for Inspired Media Group. Actress, model turned entrepreneur, Genma  owns an environmental pest control company and a consulting firm in Tennessee. In addition to being a wife and mother, Genma has won numerous awards for community activism for her philanthropy work with youth in crisis.

image When the Twin Towers were hit on the morning of 9/11/01, I was talking on the phone with Carolyn Waller, then-owner of Premier Art D├ęcor. We were discussing the details of James Threadkill’s upcoming art show. We were stunned, to say the least. We immediately reacted with cries and shouts, followed quickly by Carolyn’s prayers. As the extent of the devastation grew, I could not turn off my television. Throughout the day, I watched NBC. The Today Show morning program became one endless loop of grim and shocking images.

The next day, 9/12, I was an exhausted ball of emotions. My endless tears became dry sobs. When I could get through, I phoned family and friends to say, “I love you.” I called several mothers whose children attended college in New York to ask about their safety. I phoned every model and fashion show coordinator I had ever worked with, wanting to hear, “I am okay.” Everyone in New York had a story of someone who had not heard from a loved one or knew someone who worked downtown. My heart was heavier with each call. Weary and distraught, I continued to dial friends and acquaintances in New York and New Jersey. I was determined to reach as many people as I could. Knowing no one would answer, I even called the offices of Black Enterprise.

On 9/12, planes and other transportation came to a screeching halt, phone lines were stretched to capacity, the death counts were rising by the minute, and numbness and pain were etched in the faces of everyone on television. It felt as the world that I knew had come to an end and I was seeing a small glimpse of the ultimate judgment day. I was terrified along with everyone else.

My television was still on NBC and the descriptions of the aftermath were more than I could fathom. Local churches, synagogues, and mosques in Nashville were filled to capacity with folks seeking solace and spiritual guidance from their leaders, as well as to offer and receive comfort from others. It was not unusual to see total strangers, united in their shock, embracing each other.  Even though whispers of the unknown hung in the air like a fog on a dark dreary night, Americans were overwhelmingly without animosity toward each other. We were all Americans on 9/12, helping our fellow citizens through a national tragedy.

After comforting others, I found relief in the book of Job. Not to preach my faith to others, but I found reassurance in God’s word. Job, a faithful man, lost everything. He was devastated, yet God was with him through his entire ordeal. God was faithful to Job even when others were not. He was mocked and ridiculed, experienced ruin, betrayal, alienation, illness, and rebuke. Financial loss is one thing but Job lost his family. At one point, I wondered why I picked passages from Job to read at a disastrous time in our country.

As soon as I asked my question inwardly, I was immediately reminded of the power of Job’s story. The book of Job, one long poem, asks why innocent people suffer. God, who is always faithful, cares about his people, even if when we do not see His hands, or lose our footing. Our time is not His time. We often lack patience and perseverance. Through all the desolation, Job refused to insult God. His faithfulness and steadfastness was rewarded by God by not only restoring him to his former prominence but by God’s sending a wise man to explain truth to Job and the very friends that were so eager to denounce Job’s faith. Job’s decision to follow God even in despair replenished my soul on 9/12.

After reading Job, I wanted to help anyone who needed me. Bolstered by the sense that even when bleeding and in pain, Americans could come together, I made my way to the airport, giving out toiletries to strangers , as well as diapers, milk, and bottled water to stranded moms.. Carolyn Waller called later that evening to say that after prayer and speaking with James Threadkill, the show would go on. “We will not be beaten by fear,” she said passionately. My eternal distress was uplifted by her determination to stay positive.

When I turned on C-SPAN last Saturday to watch the 9/12 Project, promoted by media entertainer Glenn Beck, I was expecting to be reminded of the determination for our country to stay positive, resilient, and united that I remembered nine years ago. I was expecting to recall memories of our rededication to work with each other to make our country better, because that is what I experienced on 9/12/01. What I saw on 9/12/09 left me wondering why Glen Beck would invoke a time remarkable for national unity as a backdrop for his event. His fomenting of discord toward our government was hard to miss and opposite of what so many Americans felt in their hearts on 9/12/01. Instead, the thousands covered on CSPAN expressed anger and disillusionment for an America that protesters barely recognize anymore. What a contrast to crowds we watched on our televisions screens on 9/12/01 when the fundamental goodness and tenacity of the American people were on full display. No one shouted down our country leaders on 9/12/01. I remember that time being bleak, but also marked by the undeniable strength of our country, for all of its diversity.

Protesting is as American as apple or sweet potato pie. I make no attempt by this post to deny anyone the right to protest. But the mindset of our country on 9/12/01 was not reflected in the message shaped by Glenn Beck on Saturday, 9/12/09. Glenn Beck, who remained in New York while protesters assembled in DC, exploited a somber chapter in our national experience in a way that should dishearten anyone who remembers that day as vividly as I do. For Glenn Beck to use our memories of Americans who lost their lives and the anxious days that followed a horrific moment in OUR country’s history to promote the his ideology is not only shameful but disrespectful to the families, first responders, the City of New York and our great country. Protest please, by all means, but let’s not pretend Project 9/12 was a depiction of the state of the country eight years ago because it was not. On 9/12/01 many Americans were grieving but united. No one chanted angrily about taxes, Marxism, socialism, communism, Nazis, Hitler, Germany, and states’ rights on 9/12/01. I remember Americans standing tall together in midst of a tragedy. To evoke the memories of 9/11/01 and 9/12/01 to promote a” project” that represents a perversion of ideals distilled in those wrenching days is simply degrading, even for a media entertainer. Let’s not distort the memories of the innocent. Let’s call Saturday what it really was: the Glenn Beck Show.