For several years, I've conducted an annual Skype session with the students at Arapahoe High School in Colorado, who read my novel Little Brother as a jumping-off point for a wide-ranging, critical discussion of the Internet and politics. Arapahoe has been much in the news lately, for sad reasons: a student brought a gun to school, shot and wounded two of his fellow students, and then killed himself. Kristin Leclaire teaches Language Arts at Arapahoe, who was living in New York on September 11th, 2001, and she has written a sad, smart, important essay on her experience, called Scar Tissue . My thoughts are with my friends at Arapahoe.
...I, like many others, watched all of this from inside a muted bubble that wouldn’t burst until I saw the news alone in my apartment later that evening, when I cried so hard that my shirt soaked through to my skin.
The next morning, however, I cried from a different place in my heart. Looking out my window on the 20th floor, I could see a growing line of women and men down on the street stretching for blocks and blocks. They were lining up to give blood to the Red Cross.
Restaurants were still closed, but not out of fear; they posted signs informing the public that all the food for the day was being donated to those in need. In the elevator, strangers asked each other, “Is your family okay? Do you need anything?” A guy sitting next to me on the subway showed me photos of ground zero and told me about his nephew, who had escaped from the first tower.
A woman sang, “O Holy Night” in the middle of the midtown subway platform, and a hundred of us stopped rushing for a moment, put down our bags, and just listened, tears rolling down our faces as her voice reverberated off the tile walls, spreading and soaring and filling up the spaces left by lost sisters and husbands and fathers. I thought maybe she was an angel.
In a city known for its rude inhabitants, where people thought nothing of letting doors slam in my face and cutting in front of me at Zabars, something unexpected was happening: New Yorkers were becoming family.