We always tend to remember significant moments in our lives by where exactly we were when the "event" occurred. I remember when the Challenger exploded only 73 seconds into its flight killing its entire crew. It was mid-winter and sometime in the afternoon while I was in school. It was 1986 and I was in 10th grade. I remember the good things too - like the first phone call I had with Yisrael, the moment when each of my children were born, the day I watched my son put tefillin on for the first time. But we all tend to remember exactly where we were - and what we were doing - during 9/11.
Ironically, I was in the exact same place this year as I was that tragic day 12 years ago.
I was in the middle of teaching piano - around early afternoon - when Yisrael stuck his head into the living room and whispered, "one of the towers is down". I don't know how I knew he was talking about the Twin Towers, but I did. I couldn't stop teaching in the middle of my lessons, so I continued with the lesson and two more lessons afterwards without so much as a minute in between. But I knew that something huge was going on. The phone started ringing and Yisrael holed himself in the den watching TV without letting the kids into the room. I kept hearing him tell Nava to leave the room and that she couldn't watch. The second my last student left, I ran into the room. It was literally JUST as the second tower came down. To say I was speechless is a huge understatement. It was like my brain just couldn't comprehend what was happening, couldn't process it. I could not, for the life of me, understand why a faction of Muslims would want to kill thousands of US civilians simply because they were "western sinners". It didn't make sense. It still doesn't.
On a separate note, I read a fascinating article online that was published by Daily Mail in the UK about Brigitte Hoss. For those of you who are not familiar with Nazi history, Rudolph Hoss was the Kommandant of Auschwitz for a period of about 4 years. He is personally responsible for the deaths of over 1.1 millions Jews, gypsies and political prisoners that were being held in the camp during WW2. He lived with his wife and 4 children in the lap of luxury on a mini-estate on the outer grounds of Auschwitz. Yes, he raised his children within throwing distance of one of the largest death factories the world has ever known. Brigitte grew up on the grounds of Auschwitz between the ages of 7 and 11. After her father was caught and hung at Auschwitz (talk about karma...) she and her mother and siblings fled Poland. She eventually made her way to Madrid, Spain, where she became a top model for Balenciaga fashion house and then eventually made her way to Viriginia, USA. She kept the secret of her lineage for more than 40 years until now, battling cancer at age 80, decided to come forth with her story. After retiring from modeling, she worked for more than 30 years for a fashion boutique in Washington, DC and helped clothe hundreds of prominent Washingtonians, including the wives of senators and congressmen. Ironically, her boss was Jewish.
She is quoted saying that she loved her father, that she remembers him fondly and that he was "the nicest man in the world". Her nephew stated publicly that if he knew where his grandfather was buried, he would piss on his grave.
But Brigitte, while not outright denying that there were atrocities committed against the Jews of Europe said, "How can there be so many survivors if so many had been killed?" It seems that apple hasn't fallen far from that particular tree...
I found it interesting that the article came out publicly on September 11th. You might not see a correlation between the two, but I see it rather clearly. It all comes down to a couple of basic things: hatred, intolerance and a sick greediness for power. Unfortunately, history tends to repeat itself and events like these - 9/11 and the Holocaust - will happen again if we allow hatred and intolerance to fester like a plague. No one has the right to kill, maim, torture and degrade their fellow human being simply because they are different or because they follow a different set of beliefs, or have different blood coursing through their veins. We human beings are supposed to be better than that. We are supposed to know the difference between right and wrong AND act on it. We are supposed to have compassion and empathy and we SHOULD tolerate those who are not the same as we are. In other words, we are supposed to be humane. After all, that's what sets us apart from animals.
On a positive note, there were bright moments of hope in both these events. The heroic firemen of NY City who risked their lives to rescue the many injured in the attack, and the many Righteous Gentiles who risked their lives to save the Jews of Europe restore our faith in humanity and prove that we are better people when we are united for good than when we are at odds for evil.
Brigitte (far left) with her siblings in Auschwitz....