The morning of September 11th, I wake up from a deep sleep and for a moment do not recognize my surroundings. Katie Couric’s shaken voice emanates from the television that I left on overnight. There is smoke and raging fire coming from the Twin Towers in New York City—something awful has happened.
I am, for several minutes, completely disoriented. I had been on a city bus on my way to class at Xavier University of Louisiana on the morning of 9/11. Watching Katie Couric’s broadcast in a strange bed in a strange apartment, I go into a momentary panic. It is the dense rose incense still burning from the night before that helps me realize that Katie Couric is not delivering breaking news. They are simply replaying the same newscast from thirteen years ago.
That year, I sat in my Liberation Theology class with my head on the desk listening to Father speak:
Well, it’s done, he said. The United States will be at war for the rest of your natural lives. It might be wise to start thinking, seriously, about how you and your descendants plan to survive. The old ones did it for us and so must you do it for the ones that are to come. If you accept this framework, he says, it does not matter what day it is.
The point is, Father says loudly, is to understand that when things like this happen, the powerful will have to find ways to assuage their fears. The casualties will be foreign and domestic. The deaths will remind them and us that they are, in fact, immortal, infallible, and invulnerable. This is always a brutal process. The point is to remember that oppression is unnatural. That it makes the human body recoil and that resistance is never futile. Not even when chained together and defecating where you lay. This is your duty. It will always require a fight. This is what it takes to have the will to make a new generation.
Expect no less than a full- scale upheaval. Freedoms your parents have never known a life without will be challenged. Remember, generations of your family were born and died never seeing these shores or chains or the ships that would bring disease in. You come from a people who entered this politics already post-modern. You have already survived the apocalypse. Do not make fear your enemy.
Greet him and make a fool of it.
But the city that you know, its days are numbered. They have built a house of cards, a castle of sand. It cannot stand. The bottom will fall out of their shit and they will be arriving shortly to kick you out of yours. A lot will be required of you. There will be no one else left to pick up the pieces. You have not lived as long as me. I know you may not understand this lecture today. But if you remember anything. Ask yourself, what will you do with calamity? You must decide. This is the pattern. This is history.
Those who understand history by way of settlement through conquest, will need stories that affirm, tales that erase, tales that construct the simplicity of right and wrong. Black and white. The power of a man to declare something and deem it so on that basis alone. The domestic and global trouble with the indigenous will remain the same. They cannot be assimilated; will not forget to remember that they are made up of what expands above us through all the days and all the nights.
Know this: there is no beginning, middle, or end to a story. The crux of the thing is in the telling. Everything about what you know can fall apart when you untell it. When forced to consider it from another point of view, does your faith contract or expand?
Father sits down puts his head in his hands and tells us to be silent. There is a lot to comprehend. Together we listen to the sound of our own breaths. There is the sound of someone quietly sobbing.
Finally , we are told to lift our heads. Father dismisses class with a gesture and sends us out into the day on our own.
—- Kristina Kay Robinson,
New Orleans, 2015.