Reflections on 20 Years Later

This post is written by Kyla Jeanne, cast member in Docbloc’s “20 Years Later” debuting later this month.

When I first came onto this project I did not expect to write anything. I figured the script was set, cast dynamics formed, I thought I’d be expected to show up, memorize, perform, and leave. But from the very beginning it became clear that that was not the case. I was warmly invited into conversations they’d been having for months, and though I’m sure they’d heard thoughts I attempted to add time and time again they were graceful in their attention. The care and consideration my peers offered coming onto this project is reflected in the incredible work that’s come out of it. To be vulnerable and truthful in one’s experiences takes the cultivation of an extremely safe space filled with kind and caring individuals. That is the space I was welcomed into, and I am extremely grateful for it. These are the kinds of spaces we need to learn, especially regarding topics as difficult as 9/11.

I don’t remember learning about 9/11 in school. About who did it or why. I feel like the knowledge just came one day. “Osama Bin Laden sent 2 terrorists on a plane, and they flew those planes into the Twin Towers.” From there I picked up more information randomly. The “you know airports weren’t this strict before,” the “you know The Pentagon was hit too,” and the, “I heard Bush knew it was gonna happen.” Random things, unsure of which actually could be considered true information. It wasn’t until I visited the 9/11 memorial that I felt I learned anything. I listened to the phone calls, I watched the videos and read the blurbs. You can feel the weight of the souls there. And it’s heavy.

So after having the privilege of thoughtful conversations in a safe environment
and realizing that my actual knowledge regarding 9/11 was scarce, I began to wonder what exactly we as a country should teach about 9/11. The takeaway pushed on many of those who are too young to remember the event is, “Never Forget,” and I understand this. Never forget the atrocities committed throughout history, because though history never repeats it often rhymes. I do not think we should forget 9/11, but I do think we need to shift the way in which we remember and respond to it. The response of our government and our culture was an “Us v.s. Them,” the alienation, harassment and avoidance of anyone and anything that was deemed unAmerican. Instead of reflecting on the history that lead America to being subject to an act of terrorism and attempting to avoid future global contentions and conflicts, we doubled down. We decided that America could do no wrong, that the American people were more valuable than any other peoples, and our government took it upon themselves to infringe on our rights to “protect us.” Not from itself and the affects of the harm it perpetuates, but from “the other,” the “dangerous outsiders,” the “danger of the unknown.” This approach will only ring the bells of rhyming history. Going to the 9/11 memorial and seeing the amount of damage, both emotional physical, had an affect on me that reading numbers in a text book cannot. Perhaps what we cannot forget are the human lives and stories that were lost, and the incredible humanity that was shown afterwards. To show that even when humanity has tumbled down a road dark enough to produce such an atrocious event, that empathy, love, and understanding can heal and prevent future horrors.

Rehearsal photo from Docbloc’s “20 Years Later” at Manhattan Plaza, NYC.

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