I had not realized that Mohamed Mohamed el-Amir Awad el-Sayed Atta, the alleged ringleader of the 9./11 attacks, was from Cairo. 9/11 was on my mind a bit yesterday, and hearing the omnipresent call to prayer did remind me where I am this fall on this day of infamy.
In the afternoon, I had forgotten it was 9/11, but was reminded when Judy I and went to Al Diwan, a language school with a branch office just five minutes from our apartment. It has become clear to us that we need more than the dozen Arabic words that we learned weeks ago during the faculty orientation. These words have served as wonderful introductions to the people we meet, but we need more, so Judy and I plan to spend 4 hours a week studying this beautiful but at this point mysterious language. Leah is making great progress with her Arabic at AUC.
As we were signing the registration form for the class, filling out addresses, passport numbers and dates, and finishing our tea flavored with mint from the Al Diwan garden, Judy noted that today was 9/11, and she communicated this to the man who is the manager of the school and soon to be our teacher. His eyes looked down as he acknowledged that he understood what she was saying. “I’m sorry,” he said, and repeated that once or twice more as we realized together the sadness we all felt at that moment.
We paid our bill, expressed our excitement about working together, and arrived home to find Leah on the sofa with her computer, listening to recordings of an attendant from flight 11 and a woman trapped in the World Trade Center. I had not heard these before, and found them deeply disturbing, a harrowing reminder of hate gone awry. And to realize that Atta had walked these streets added a new perspective to this day that will always conjure sad memories and remind us all where we were then, and for me this year, underscore where I am now.