9/11 tragedy: The day blue skies turned gray-black with smoke
Twenty years have passed, since that fateful: Tuesday, September 11, 2001. But the day is etched in the memory of my fellow educators and my students in a spot of indelible ink. It had felt like a great day for school – clear blue skies and a gentle breeze lifting the spirit. About 650 students and staff had lined up in the yard of Public School 27 in Red Hook, Brooklyn, New York. Schools had just reopened and hope was in the air. But who knew what was in store for Americans that morning! That those same blue skies would turn gray-black with smoke and New Yorkers would be running for their lives?
Facing the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in Manhattan, as we used to at the school, we started reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, and that was it! At 8:46 am, an airplane, as if coming from nowhere, went right into the tower on the right side. Over 1,300 eyes in the schoolyard witnessed the history in making. The American Airlines flight 11 from Boston to Los Angeles crashed into the upper stories of WTC’s north tower.
Fast forward to this 20th anniversary of 9/11. I had planned to make it a day of remembrance of the souls that never came home that day.
I was then a coordinator of “English as a new language” hence my presence in the schoolyard. I was also a former international journalist having worked in both India and the USA and so I could sense what had happened. “We are being attacked!” I yelled as the panic-stricken students huddled back into the school.
But it was only starting. Our eyes could not believe as yet another airplane United Airlines flight 175 pierced into the South Tower at 9:03 am. Screams of kids filled the air. Screams that could not stop as we watched people end their life by jumping from the burning towers. Much later, the toll from the attack on the Twin Towers was declared as a whopping 3,000 but we had all become unwitting witnesses to the worst terror attack the US has seen and a monumental tragedy as both towers collapsed. The papers from the Towers, the tell-tale marks of the tragedy flew into our school, right into our faces.
By the time dusk laid out its dusty wail that day, an uneasy calm descended on the Big Apple. The vivacious city that never sleeps, had turned into a ghost town. Sirens of fire trucks and ambulances interrupted the suffocating silence.
Fast forward to this 20th anniversary of 9/11. I had planned to make it a day of remembrance of the souls that never came home that day. By any standard of humanity and common sense, it should be a time to introspect and ponder over how we as a nation can safeguard ourselves and our democratic values from falling victim to Islamic terrorism.
Dismantling Global Hindutva: Anti-Hindutva conference
What then am I to make of the news that this solemn day has been chosen to instead host something called “Dismantling Global Hindutva”? And that some 40-50 universities in the U.S. are supporting this effort? What I wonder, does my community have to do with the horror of 9/11 that I saw transpire before my eyes? Innocents were the target of global politics that day and innocents are again the targets of global politics.
Organizing an anti-Hindutva conference, that too during this milestone anniversary, is beyond offensive. It speaks to a strategy to muddy the narrative and distort the history of who really was responsible for 9/11, by cunningly drawing fictional tie-ins with Hindutva/ Hinduism and repeating that adage over and over again in the coming years. This is how good propaganda works-something I saw time and again in my years as a journalist and something that affirms the importance of fact-based vs opinion-based reporting-even if that opinion comes from purported experts. Goebbels would be proud. Just as the Nazis demonized the Jews of Europe, this conference wants to target and demonize the peace-loving Hindu-American community.
As I shared my concerns regarding the conference, my fellow educators were shocked. “What did Hinduism or India have to do with 9/11? We should rather raise our voice against the real terrorism that has caused havoc around the world,” commented one of my former colleagues.
The need of the hour is for people to come together to reflect, heal and provide succor to the survivors of the worst act of terrorism and their heirs. By supporting an anti-Hindu meet, these prestigious institutions of learning, are lending support to those who seek to whitewash terror and the history of who attacked that day, and why.
Events such as this conference have a negative impact on thousands of students – those who come from India to pursue higher studies in the USA, as well as Hindu students raised here. They are left confused and hurt, made to feel ashamed of their heritage and responsible for an event they had no responsibility for. False equivalencies are a dangerous weapon in the war for truth.
Hate speech from august academics is not new. But the claim of support from publicly funded universities moves the hate from individual to institutional and this is something to be opposed at all costs. And oppose the Hindu community has. More than 1.2 million emails have been sent to supporting universities while more than 150 organizations, have signed a letter registering their dismay and protest. And protest we should, for pushback against injustice from the well-connected and elites is as much a part of our American heritage of civil rights resistance as it is part of our Hindu value system.
But the more important part of protests comes AFTER the event, which is only one in a salvo of anti-Hindu initiatives. The need of the hour is proactive and ongoing action – starting from the grassroots-in our schools, colleges, offices, clubs, temples, and more. We know it can be done-many other communities have trodden this path before us. But it takes sustained attention, action, and yes a diversion of the time and resources we currently lavish on more enjoyable pursuits. If the Hindu community slumps back into its slumber next month, we have only ourselves to blame.
1. Text in Blue points to additional data on the topic.
2. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.
 Dismantling Global Hindutva Conference Anti-Hindu: US State Senator – Sep 01, 2021, News 18
 150 AMERICAN AND CANADIAN ORGANIZATIONS ASK UNIVERSITIES TO DISAVOW HINDUPHOBIA – Sep 06, 2021, CoHNA.org
- 9/11: Time to promote universal values of Hindutva - September 11, 2021