Quote of the Day: Another Student Paper

The winter after 9/11, self was a guest professor in the Creative Writing Program at xxxxxx University. She devised a writing exercise to tap into students’ emotions about the attacks. Imagine her surprise when self’s proposal was met with exceeding scorn by the students: They said, What a cliché! Can’t you come up with a better prompt for a writing exercise than that?

Because self is quite tenacious (if not stubborn), she resolved from then on that she would never, ever stop bringing up the World Trade Center in class.

This quarter, self has her students in xxxx community college write their last paper for the quarter on an event that marked their lives. Surprisingly (or maybe not so surprisingly, since self did show “United 93” in class a few weeks ago), about half chose to write about the World Trade Center attacks. Here’s the big difference in the two classes: The students in self’s Creative Writing class at xxxxxx university were almost all white. The ones at xxxx community college are mostly non-white, and over half are new, first-generation immigrants.

Tonight (while watching “Project Runway” — was there ever a more glaring example of situational irony?), she reads a paper from a student whose family immigrated from Bolivia. This boy can really write. It took him only a few years to master English. Here are his words, words that seared self, almost as much as the image of Ying’s blindness:

So the terrorist attacks did much more damage to our country than the actual destruction of the buildings themselves and the death of thousands. The events of September 11 caused a wave of misplaced hatred and ignorance that infiltrated our communities, because of the paranoia and the fear that the attacks spread throughout our nation.

The essay continues for two more pages. On the last page, the student wrote this:

Although September 11, 2001 might like something from the distant past to me, recently I experienced another event that made me realize something about September 11. On Thursday, March 6, 2008, I was driving home from San Jose with my Dad when an SUV came really fast behind me and hit me on the front right end of my car. Because of the hit, I was forced left, almost perpendicular to oncoming traffic. I turned right, but because of the spin I lost control of my car. At some point, I found myself heading straight into the concrete divider in the middle of the freeway, so I hit the brakes and turned right. My car spun and the back end hit the barrier. After that, I managed somehow to drive off the freeway and it all turned out okay, thank God.

This event made me begin to think about what happened on September 11 again, because my life was once again threatened, and I came to realize something. Because of this near-death experience, I came to the conclusion that life is hard and death is easy. You can live 19 years but you can die in a matter of seconds: it is a lot harder to live 19 years than it is to die. It takes courage to live, so I realized that the terrorists that were in the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were cowards. Death is inevitable and living in fear is no way to live. The events of September 11, 2001 will always remain in my mind as one of the days my life was legitimately threatened and it is one of the events that has shaped some of my strongest beliefs.

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