Between the news on the refugee crisis in Europe, a book I just finished on the mess that is known as the Middle East, 9/11 anniversary and my upcoming participation in the Race for the Cure my range of emotions just really is off the charts these days.
I am a refugee - an immigrant - and I feel the pain of those folks who are just leaving everything they have ever known, their birth country with it's traditions that are comforting and familiar because it is no longer home it is the rubble, literally or metaphorically, of the life they and their parents thought they were going to have. I looked at the scene on the train and it brought me back to a trip I took with my mom years ago. We went back to visit family in Romania and took the train to meet my Dad in Germany. It was not the nice trains I took this summer in Europe. It was an old fashioned train and there was a feeling of oppression and menace on it through every stop, every army uniformed checkpoint that we went through via the Easter bloc countries. The people wanted to be intimidating and though we had US passports you held your breath every moment they looked at you or asked you a question - you felt it lift as soon as you crossed into Austria. It was a sensation I had not thought about until I saw the scenes on tv - those people not guaranteed safe passage and I cried. I cried because as one who leaves a place you never again feel you have a place of your own 100%. You make a life for yourself but can move easily from place to place because permanence is not a given. You can make friends easily maybe or maybe you are just going to hold on to what is familiar to the point that it makes you a stranger in a strange land. I love moving and for the longest time, until I read an article in the Times written by a fellow Romanian refugee who left about the same time I did, I did not realize it may be because for me home can change and I learned to embrace that without ever adding special attachment to an actual housing place.
This leads me to 9/11 because as much as no one apartment or house has ever been something I am not prepared to give up my refuge was NYC. It is where I grew up, where I loved to embrace everyone being different and yet having the same needs, loves, ambitions, anger. We are New Yorkers and to me no other city represents a refugee rebirth more than this one, a city that itself has been broken and battered and rebuild itself. I enjoy the traveling but there is something of a comfort in NYC for me - because it was the land that welcomed me when I first had to leave my birth home maybe or because it is everything my city of birth never was. I remember the 9/11 attacks and they are still a raw wound for me because it reminded me again how easily you may have to leave because a place is not safe. I will not forgive those who did this ever for that - for making me feel that the place that was my home could be so damaged - that my people could be so hurt. My parents ran and took me from the dark and truly destructive people who made life much like that train ride, oppressive, intimidating, hopeless. The terrorist of 9/11 reminded me that they could always come to me. Yet this time I did not run - I actually did not even leave the island at first - because there was hope in the humanity that I saw that day in my fellow refugees known as New Yorkers. Maybe because we are a city of people who have fled hardships before we did not wish to inflict them upon one another. We are known for our toughness, our scariness, our dirty city that is really those things in small part and in large we are just the same inside regardless of the multitude of languages we express ourselves in, the beauty of the expansive colors of our skin and the wonder of the cultural traditions we meld together. No terrorists, you cannot take that from us we have lost so much before we ever got here and we know how to rebuild. I will never mention their names - the names that will forever be on my lips will be those of the brave firefighters, police, average people who gave their own lives to help others - they should be remembered, those who committed the crimes you did nothing to add to the fabric of society you only tried to destroy it - tried not succeeded.
On Sunday I will run in honor of the many women I know who have outrun cancer and in memory of those who could not find refuge and were killed by it. I will run in the Race for the Cure because it is amazing to see people give of their time and money to run together in a world that seems often bent on chasing us away from all that we know so that we are running apart.
This is an emotional time for me and people supporting a man whose very platform is to remind us that we are refugees who should not find shelter in a country that was founded only to welcome those kicked out of other places just breaks me. I cannot fathom why he has support, he is not speaking against "the man or the establishment" he is the the man and the establishment and one that has denied opportunities to all but his cronies. He is everything my parents ran from - who does not embrace democracy but dictatorship - because anyone who is going to run on ideas that his way is the only way is nothing more than a dictator.
Those refugees are me - and that fear of displacement, that belonging to two places yet not really to either 100% will follow those people forever. Those towers that came down were me again on the run from those who wish to make my home unbearable. I Race for the Cure - against cancers of the body and also against the cancer that is known as hate among people. I am a refugee and maybe we are the answer in some ways - for those without borders can build places that are homes made of where they chose to lay their hearts.