Reflections on a Year's Journey

Readers, from a Shakespearean actor to a Muslim American, describe how life is different for them since Sept. 11.

My adopted country

Daytona Beach, Fla.

On Sept. 1, 2001, I was happily cruising along in life. Dec. 31 would be my last day practicing medicine after 33 years.

In September 2002, my high school in the Philippines would be celebrating its centennial, and I had planned on going to see old friends after 48 years.

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Then Sept. 11 came. I still bade farewell to my patients in December, our hearts weighed down in a way that reminded me of John Donne's preaching that no man is an island. The plan to visit my native country vanished like a wisp of smoke.

Here in America, I felt pangs of insecurity for the first time since arriving in 1964. Watching those towering infernos at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon brought back memories of World War II when, growing up in a small town in the Philippines, I first experienced the devastation of my country.

Now I feel better, still anxious but more cognizant of the things that matter most in life – family values, love, friendship, and an abiding trust that our leaders will make our nation more secure. America, my adopted country, has become more meaningful to me than ever.

• Remigio G. Lacsamana is a retired physician.

In the Navy now

Louisville, Ky.

My boyfriend, Clark, was pounding on my door. "Turn on the television. The World Trade Center fell."

I stared at him. What kind of joke was this, I remember wondering.

A few weeks later, Clark said he wanted to join the armed forces, but he thought he was too old. I told him to find out. I think I nagged him about it.

He lost 60 pounds and scraped in just before his 35th birthday. Now he's in Navy boot camp. I have become the woman who sits at home and frets. I can't help thinking, as the war rhetoric goes on and on: Am I going to be getting a telegram in six months, or a year, or two? I encouraged him to try for the Navy. I supported him when he did. He's doing the right thing. I have to keep telling myself that for the next six years.

• Jamie Proctor is a freelance writer.

A bully-free world

Rouses Point, N.Y.

As an eighth-grade English teacher, I have always felt a tingle of anticipation each September.

At 8:20 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001, my biggest problems were learning students' names, setting the tone for a "bully-free" classroom, and making sure no one knew it was my birthday. This year, I find myself with an all-too-real example of the effects of bullying and intolerance. I doubt anyone at school will be thinking about my birthday.

My students and I will discuss Afghanistan – a country last year's students and I couldn't find on a map or spell – and how to stop terrorism, beginning with our school corridors.

• Karen Bouvier teaches at Northeastern Clinton Central School.

One good punch

New York

In the past year, I have learned to press 120 pounds with my legs and 70 with my arms. The images of women fleeing the World Trade Center on 9/11 left a bold impression. Those who were fit got out faster.

Before the attack, I knew I wasn't as strong as I used to be. I didn't mind. I could still play an easy game of tennis and jog a slow mile in the park. But as scenarios of terror ran through my mind, I didn't think I could survive shimmying down a rope from my fourth-story office, or fleeing Manhattan by bicycle.

I began twice-weekly training sessions with Enrique, a former marine, at my health club. During our first session, he laced me into boxing gloves and showed me some moves. I slammed a right hook into his glove. It felt great. Then we worked on weights. Now I lift more than Enrique's 16-year-old nephew.

I'm not sure my being fit will help me to overpower a hijacker. But I sleep better knowing I could get in one good punch.

• Andrea Disario Marcusa is a writer.

Choosing to be

Hollywood, Calif.

Throughout the horror of Sept. 11, I kept thinking of a line from "Hamlet": "Foul deeds will rise, though all the Earth o'erwhelm them to men's eyes."

Amid the loss of life, my wife and I focused on providing life. We renewed our commitment to an international adoption.

Meanwhile, the time was out of joint, and I questioned the relevance of going forward with a production I'd been planning of Shakespeare's tale of the melancholy Dane.

But it became obvious that his tragedy of murder and revenge spoke to our post-9/11 melancholia: "How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable seem to me all the uses of this world."

The American psyche had suffered the slings and arrows of most outrageous fortune; healing would come from finding some worthwhile use for the pain. Perhaps the play was the thing after all?

Our production of Hamlet last fall was a resounding success, and helped raise funds for the adoption of our daughter, Grace, from China later this year. She's already brought so much grace into our lives. Sept. 11 taught us once again the answer to the question "to be or not to be." We choose to be.

• Kevin Carr is an actor and director.

A patriot's journey

Pacific Grove, Calif.

Last October while on vacation in Boston, I was feeling discouraged by our government's exclusively military vision of 9/11 patriotism. I decided to seek inspiration at Faneuil Hall, the scene of passionate town meetings during America's revolutionary period.

I arrived as a park ranger was concluding his talk: "Americans believe that we can solve our problems by talking about them. We express our views in a kind of public debate, or discourse, and that's what Faneuil Hall has always been about."

His comment hit home. Our leaders, who were labeling citizen dissenters unpatriotic, had lost sight of the real power of free speech and open debate. Ordinary citizens, myself included, felt scared to speak out.

After my visit, I became a more vocal advocate for civil liberties and responsible international behavior. Last April, I joined a protest march in Washington, where I distributed posters I hoped would encourage others to speak out: "Peace is Patriotic!" each read, on a background of stars and stripes.

On Sept. 11, 2002, I'm still learning how to fight for my country, on my own terms, each day.

• Creighton Peet is a writer.

Explaining Islam

San Angelo, Tex.

As Muslims, my family and I have been moved by the generosity of friends and strangers since Sept. 11.

Civic organizations have asked my wife and me to take part in discourses on Islam. Most people have shown genuine interest in learning about its spirituality and contribution to civilization. People grasp that I can't explain away the inhumanity of some Muslims, just as Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, and Sikhs can't explain away the inhumanity of some of their coreligionists.

Truth is that the tormentors of all societies follow the religion of their own making.

• Fazlur Rahman is a physician.

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