A year ago I was sitting on a plane flying home from San Francisco after a weekend visiting friends and family. When my flight landed in Detroit, after a layover in Denver, a routine trip turned into a shocking event that changed my life.
It was the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. I had expected a quiet flight, but instead I was accused of acting suspiciously during the flight along with two Indian men sitting in my row. In Detroit the three of us were forced off the plane by armed guards, handcuffed and taken to the airport police station where we were strip searched and interrogated for four hours by the FBI, Homeland Security and airport security.
It was a horrifying experience for me, and you can read about it in a post I wrote the following day. Now a year later, I am glad it is behind me.
In the year that’s passed, I have learned a lot about Americans’ fears, media spotlights, civil liberties, constitutional rights and legal recourse available. I am continuing to work with the ACLU in the hope that public awareness can help deter another incident like this. I am writing in depth about the incident and about the changes in our society since that tragic Tuesday morning, now 11 years ago, in which almost 3.000 people lost their lives.
We’ve entered into two wars seen as retaliation and spent trillions of dollars on those operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. We’ve lost 6,700 Americans who have fought in those two wars, almost 50,000 U.S. military personnel have returned from the Middle East with physical and emotional wounds.
Meanwhile, the U.S. economy is struggling to find its footing and the national unemployment rate is seemingly holding steady around 8 percent. We’re looking toward a November election that will determine a president and many congressional seats, and the issues being batted around are the economy, jobs and antiquated social issues, like contraception, a woman’s right to choose and equality for gays and lesbians. There’s very little talk about the wars in the Middle East, the ongoing suspicion of Muslims in America and the violence that sometimes occurs because of latent hostility toward those who look Middle Eastern.
Just last month, six Sikhs died at their temple in Wisconsin, when a man with ties to neo-Nazi groups and who served in the U.S. military, opened fire while they were praying.
Today we remember those who died 11 years ago in the attacks that forever would change our country, but we also need to look to the future and decide how best to heal those wounds and move toward compassion and peace. This country has had its share of racial strife. From its founding, only white, land-owning men were given the power to have their voices heard in government. Oppression has found its way into every crevice of our society, and members of every ethnicity that makes up this melting pot of a country has felt the effects of discrimination at one time or another. But, as the constitution says, our goal is to continually mold the united states into a “more perfect Union.”
We can take today and make tomorrow better. We can always look forward to making tomorrow better.