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Jewish World Review Oct. 5, 2001 / 18 Tishrei, 5762

Patrick B. McGuigan

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Consumer Reports

Sleepless in Queens:
An e-mail -- OKLAHOMA CITY | The e-mail came from a sleepless woman in Astoria, Queens, a borough of New York City. It was composed at 12:50 a.m. She wanted someone to hear her cry in the night -- someone who might understand things that cameras and news dispatches and audio sound bites cannot convey. She addressed me by my first name, although we've never met.

On the morning of Sept. 11, she stood on her rooftop, looking at the skyline of Manhattan, as the twin towers collapsed. She still feels "numb. I feel angry. I feel helpless. I am fearful. I feel that a piece of me was ripped away without my say-so. I feel like no one else in this country understands the loss and devastation that is the reality of New York City right now. Except Oklahoma City."

In the aftermath of the events of April 19, 1995, she watched and read the news. Sadness turned to anger and then to hopes for vengeance: "It soon became a political situation in my mind and I found myself veering away from the loss of human life and pure devastation, and toward the politically charged injustice committed on our nation."

On the night she sent the e-mail, she was "angry at those who feel now, much like I did the weeks that followed the Oklahoma City bombing. I am angry when I watch national networks beginning to steer the nation toward justice and revenge (albeit justified). I am angry when I see the graphics that state 'America on the Rise', 'Rebuilding America', as we here in NYC are still in deep mourning. I am angry when I see people in Texas screaming 'bomb them into the stone age' -- although I, too, want revenge. I am angry when I see a small group in California protesting our government, spewing their politically correct rhetoric about violence not being the answer. ...

"I want them to look into the eyes of the countless firefighters holding onto some shred of fleeting hope that they may find at least one survivor ... in an incomprehensible amount of, collectively, over two hundred and twenty floors of rubble. I want them to be faced with the reality that these men and women continue working, even as harsh as it is to state, among the stench of decaying human remains and dangerous conditions.

"I want them to look into the eyes of the people of New York City as we walk our streets, grasping for some shred of normalcy that we will never get back, as we watch plane after plane fly overhead from our airports. I want them to stand next to us as we do not want to stare angrily into the faces of our fellow New Yorkers who are Muslim, but catch ourselves in a momentary lapse of suspicion. Then they will feel what I feel. I want them to feel what I feel."

Her name is Bethany Potter.

She wrote: "Most of all, I want to tell those who faced the devastation in your city that I am sorry. I am sorry that I never understood your pain. I never understood your loss. I have said on numerous occasions since this tragedy that the only people who truly can understand the severity of loss of New Yorkers are the residents of Oklahoma City. I know the country feels a sense of loss, devastation and anger, but unless it is in your own backyard, the pain just cannot be conveyed via a camera lens. This does not mean I am not grateful for the support NYC has received. I am. We all are. I just felt I needed to write and say that I understand now, and I am sorry."

Yesterday I sent her an answer:

"Dear Bethany: For most people, time eases the pain, some, but everything you described will abide. Take time for everyone who needs to vent. It helps to talk. Let me know how you're doing. I know that Oklahomans care. We understand how you feel. We're praying for justice, peace and strength. After they read your words, thousands here will pray for you, by name. Don't forget. Don't stop caring. Don't give up. Pat."

She described how the World Trade Center looked in the night, her beautiful beacon of normalcy. Now, she wants people she's never met to know she'll always remember the anger, the sorrow, the love and the living, after terror came to Ground Zero.

Patrick B. McGuigan is the editorial page editor of The Oklahoman. Comment by clicking here.


© Oct. 3, 2001, The Daily Oklahoman