Bay Reflections
Vol. 9, No. 39
September 27 - October 3, 2001
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This is Our Strength:
We Are Many, Different And the Same
by Nancy Hoffmann

Yes, the twin towers crumbled. The networks played it again and again. Perhaps we needed to see it so many times to believe that those engineering marvels of cement, steel and glass had fallen to earth.

But did you see the people? The ones who ran for their lives, dashing past the cameras. An African American man, a white man and woman, a woman in what appeared to be a head scarf, an Asian woman. All ran past the cameras over and over again, the same expressions of horror, fear and shock on their faces. Many were screaming.

What about the white firefighter? And the African American police officer? Did you see them? At one of the hospitals, an Asian man in surgical garb examined a white man stretched out on a gurney. A white woman in a lab coat ran across the screen. Later, an Hispanic woman searching for a relative held up his picture. She spoke with a light accent.

Read the lists of the missing in the papers. Their names trace a lineage to far-away lands. Their pictures from happier times show sparkling eyes in faces of many shades and colors.

So this is New York. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses …

But it isn’t only New York that displays such faces. There’s the man at the flight school in Florida, distraught that he may have trained some of the hijackers. He was speaking with a thick accent. From where that accent comes, I do not know, I do not care. The man at the motel where some of the terrorists stayed, he also spoke with an accent. I cannot place it. But again, I do not care. My grandparents spoke with accents.

Closer to home, at the Naval Academy is a midshipman whose mother escaped with him from Cambodia when he was an infant. Where I eat lunch in Annapolis, a young man works in the kitchen. We do not speak. I know only English; he knows only Spanish. And on my street, names tell of our descent from Europe and Asia.

Do these terrorists know who we are, these united states? They seem to have one image of us that will not fit. Oh, I know they do not care to truly see us. I am not so big a fool.

Yet I do know this. Come to the United States of America and pursue your dream, raise a family. We do not care what you were before. Open a flight school, be a bond trader, a naval officer, a firefighter. Make something of yourself. How much energy do you have? How much determination? How hard will you work? These are the things that will define you in this country. I had forgotten, and I am sorry it took such grotesque acts to remind me.

We will rebuild and move forward, always remembering those who suffered and died. We are many, different and the same. This is our strength, taking the best from the worlds we left behind and adding them to the mix that is the United States of America.

Nancy Hoffmann, originally from New York, graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy. After serving six years active duty, she attended the University of Maryland School of Law. She works in Annapolis as an attorney.

Copyright 2001
Bay Weekly