Saturday, September 11, 2010

My 9/11 Memories

My 9/11 memories are all wrapped up in adoption. 

I'd received my referral for Zoe in late August 2001.  The night of September 10th, I'd stayed up late checking in on APC, the big China adoptive parent Yahoogroup (only it wasn't on Yahoo back then, I don't think), obsessively checking for rumors of when travel approvals would come.  I'd waited 12 months for Zoe's referral -- and back then that was a LONG time;  referral times were 6-9 months when I started the process.  I was anxious to get to China to meet my daughter.  I went to bed late, no closer to an answer on when I would travel.

I woke up late and groggy on the 11th, and as was my habit in those days, the first thing I did was check for rumors about travel approvals on APC.  There was a message on APC that a small plane had hit one of the towers.  How strange, I though, and kept trolling for rumors about travel approvals.  I checked every group I was on, no news, and went back to APC.  Now the messages were talking about an airliner hitting the tower, and the tower falling.  I turned on the TV just in time to see the first responders running toward the second tower.  You're going the wrong way, I thought.  That tower will fall, too.  And then it did.

As the day progressed I confess that my thoughts turned selfish -- how will this affect travel approvals?  How will this affect my adoption?  How can one even contemplate raising a child in this crazy, mixed up world?

A few months before, I'd started a "Waiting Families" group for FCC.  Our regularly-scheduled meeting was for the evening of the 11th.  In some ways, it didn't seem right to have that meeting.  In other ways, it didn't seem right not to have the meeting.  I sent out the question on our local email list.  Most chimed in that we should meet.  I think we all felt the need to be with other people that night.

One family attending the meeting had real concerns -- they were supposed to leave for China in two days to get their daughter.  They didn't make it, most flights were still grounded.  They ended up traveling a month later with me. I'm sure that family's memories of 9/11 are all mixed up with adoption, too.  Their misfortune inured to our benefit -- we got to travel with good friends who are good friends to this day.

Flying from DFW to San Francisco a month later was still eerie -- the plane was practically empty.  Seeing soldiers with machine guns in American airports was strange. The flight to Hong Kong was equally empty, equally strange.  My mom traveled with me, and my father was worried -- America bombed Afganistan while we were in China and he didn't like that his family was abroad when America was at war.  I wasn't worried;  I felt safer in China than in an America that, on one hand, felt like a target, and that, on the other hand, felt like it was going crazy with anti-Muslim sentiment that resulted in physical assaults on anyone perceived as Muslim.

Besides, I had other things to worry about -- being a parent for the first time!

Coming home to America with Zoe was very meaningful at that time.  Going through immigration in Los Angeles, our first American port of call, Zoe automatically became an American citizen. We took a photo alongside the first American flag we came across. 

We spent the night in L.A.;  checking in for our flight to DFW the next morning, the ticket clerk oohed and ahhed all over Zoe, and told me she'd highlight our boarding pass in yellow so Security would know we were OK -- how did she know we were OK, I wondered?!  And why was she telling us the signal that meant everything was OK?! Our flight was nearly empty again. 

We knew no one could meet us at the gate on arrival at DFW because of security, but our friends and family were out in force in the baggage claim area.  Patriotism was riding high, and the crowd bristled with American flags.  Zoe coming home was joyous, and wrapped up in the patriotism inspired by 9/11.

The picture above is of one of the signs my friends from work carried to celebrate Zoe's home-coming.  It still hangs in our hallway almost 9 years later.

So what does 9/11 mean now, 9 years later?  When a group-Koran-burning was narrowly averted?  When there are protests against mosques throughout the United States, not just near the site of terrorist attacks?  When the "us" versus "them" rhetoric is heating up?  When the category of "perpetual foreigner" seems deeply entrenced?

Today, I like the fact that my children are doing something "American" -- they're attending the first day of Chinese School.  Because there is nothing inconsistent in being from China and being American!

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