The Agony of an Untold Story – Writing 101

Carol A. Hand

WARNING. This is an honest account drawn from my unedited reactions to the 9/11 tragedy, written while at home in the “ceded territory” of the northwoods of the central USA. It’s likely to provoke strong emotions. Please don’t feel obligated to read it.

It was September 11, 2001. I was getting ready to leave my home in Lac du Flambeau Wisconsin to find a place to live near the Ojibwe community where I would be spending the next nine months. The night before, I had returned home from an extended visit to the community. It t was dark when I arrived home. Nonetheless, I dutifully recorded my hand-written reflections from my visit in my research journal.

Monday, 9/10/2001

“ … What do I feel – I love listening to stories – but the problems I’m learning about are serious & it seems I’ve been able to gain a group of elders who are willing to share their views w/o tape recorder & as a group. They do identify themselves as those out-of-power – but it seems that is both an issue of family and age/values. They rice & do crafts & care about the future of the community.”

My hand-written notes for the next day didn’t reflect my observations from the community I had left the day before. That community would be affected in profound ways by an event that riveted their attention to the larger world, as it did to mine, to a tragedy that was new and distant, but was also a symbolic reminder of our own history of losses as Ojibwe people.

I never shared the notes I recorded that day, September 11, 2001. My journal remained tucked in a locked file cabinet where my research materials are stored. It’s been there for more than a decade – move after move. I just discovered it this week when I was looking for information for another project. I had forgotten about it. When I pulled out the bound journal, I discovered an untold story. I’m not sure if the agony that was reawakened was because of an untold story. Remembering the tragic events of that day would be enough on their own, but they also touched older memories and stories still untold. The events of that day intensified the deep, deep sadness that was already part of my experiences and my DNA.

I arose early and fired-up the gasoline-powered generator so I would have electricity to shower, pack, and get ready to hit the road. I decided to check my email just before I left…

Tues., 9/11/01

“… I turned on the laptop, did dishes, & read my email & discovered a strange note from ILSTU [my university] abt. supporting students to deal w/ tragedy. I turned on the t.v. & became glued to the story unfolding of the 4 hi-jacked commercial jets: 2 crashed into towers of the world trade center in NYC, one into the Pentagon in DC, & one southeast of Pittsburgh – ordinary people traveling & working whose lives were suddenly ended or changed forever.
CNN, & the war-mongers of course blaming Arab Muslim terrorists & calling for revenge for “one of the worst tragedies in the history of the world.” I think of Native peoples & the death & loss & tragedies they have endured at the hands of the ancestors of those who now condemn this “dastardly deed.”

“The US is an oppressor, as were the European conquistador ancestors of those who now rattle their sabers. It is a tragic act – an inexcusable act of hatred & violence – & if it were my family on a plane, would I too want vengeance? I don’t know. I only know that I did not want to be “in the field” today. I need to reflect & balance so I can listen to others’ views without judgment or comment. I “feel” this even from different times – the links to European invasion, to Jewish imprisonment, to clear-cut forests, to children taken from the side of the road, to my grandson who must endure craziness, Can we, as a world, learn to see the wonder that could be?

“…. How can I use my research to work toward a positive goal – a vision of what could be not only for our families & communities but all families and communities?

“It is really only by chance (?) that I found the email before I left. I’m grateful for the chance to reflect. I am sorry for all of the families – the Boston link made me grateful that [my daughter] & [my grandson] traveled from there safely a week ago!

“It is a time for healing. Our greatest resources surround us – they are not to be found in illusions of “power” over others, or money, or things. A hug from a grandchild, a thank you from a child, a smile & laughter – let me offer tobacco – for my family, for those who died & were hurt & their families, & for those whose lives are so bleak that they can do this — & for the world.”

This isn’t something I would have chosen to write today, or really any other day. But the Twitter quotes listed for today’s Writing 101 assignment didn’t speak to me as someone who walks between cultures. Nor did the hundreds of other quotes I skimmed on Twitter. Maya Angelou’s came closest. The untold and unheard stories of our peoples continue to be an agony that must be borne until we find a way to give them voice, and until we know that others have really understood.

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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About Carol A. Hand

What matters are not the titles I’ve held or university degrees I earned or the size of a house or bank account. It’s really what I’ve learned from ordinary people like me whom I’ve met along the way. They taught me to live with gratitude and give thanks for each new day.
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28 Responses to The Agony of an Untold Story – Writing 101

  1. Lara/Trace says:

    As much as 9-11 was a shock to the world, it sparked an awakening of the world. The powers that committed such an atrocity are still in the spotlight. Truth will prevail. It’s wonderful to read your reflections Carol, always.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jackie says:

    Carol, thank you for sharing your perspective on the events of that day. I hope we can all learn to appreciate the value of each human life.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you Carol for sharing this

    Like

  4. desilef says:

    End the agony. Keep telling.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. lozzafun says:

    Thank you for expressing a tender but sane perspective about the trauma of 9/11… Healing comes, slowly for many but available to all ….. Thank you Carol…

    Liked by 1 person

  6. sojourner says:

    “The untold and unheard stories of our peoples continue to be an agony that must be borne until we find a way to give them voice, and until we know that others have really understood.”

    I am of white, European ancestry, and yet this one sentence really speaks to me.

    I awake some times in the night with thoughts that I can’t put to rest, and this also happens during my waking hours as well.

    There are so many things I want to say to make people understand what is happening to them and others, horrible things that have been going on for centuries and much, much longer, as you know better than I.

    This burns in me. It is sometimes overwhelming to the point that I don’t feel mentally and emotionally well. So I write in the best manner I know how, in order to get this “untold story,” or whatever it is, out of me. And not only so I can have rest, but that hopefully, it changes someone else’s views the way other writers have changed mine.

    It’s odd, as I’ve mentioned before, I am a musician/composer, and yet music has never burned in me this way. Perhaps it’s because what burns in me now is the destruction of lives all over this planet, the injustice and insanity that seems to be everywhere I look.

    I have former friends who have departed from me for my views, which are not always popular or nice. But this doesn’t seem to be able to stop me.

    Like

    • Such powerful comments, Sojourner, and so eloquently-said! I think I understand. This morning, I wanted to write a humorous light-hearted poem. It is 9/11 and I tend to try to counter the heaviness of such events. But I also felt obligated to complete the assignment for the WordPress writing class I chose to take. I realized as I looked at quotes on Twitter to select a writing prompt for the day (our assignment), nothing felt right because I felt the heaviness of stories yet to tell. And so I wrote what was aching to be said.

      I appreciate your thoughtful response deeply 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. sojourner says:

    I wrote,

    “Perhaps it’s because what burns in me now is the destruction of lives all over this planet, the injustice and insanity that seems to be everywhere I look.”

    This shows how unaware I have been for most of my life, since the insane injustice I see now has been going on for ages, but most of us white Europeans are sadly, devoid of this truth.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Melissa Shaw-Smith says:

    Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. cicorm says:

    “It is a time for healing. Our greatest resources surround us – they are not to be found in illusions of “power” over others, or money, or things. A hug from a grandchild, a thank you from a child, a smile & laughter – let me offer tobacco – for my family, for those who died & were hurt & their families, & for those whose lives are so bleak that they can do this — & for the world.”

    Agree with your statement, Carol. There is a need to let go of the poison of hatred and greed, in order to co-exist harmoniously in what is otherwise a sufficient world…

    Liked by 1 person

  10. hsampson says:

    Wow Thank you Carol for this deep reflection! There are too many things still to say and understand on this event but, your words bring a more centred perspective for all of us. Thank you, as usual it was brilliant!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I appreciate your thoughtful comments, Hector. It was a hard piece to write and not really what I intended to work on, but I’m glad I was able to. I’m sure it was a hard piece for most people to read or comment on, which makes me particularly grateful for yours. Thank you.

      Like

  11. Equality 333 says:

    Very thoughtful words that put 911 into perspective. Regardless of what you believe about it, it was a change that changed the world for ever, from a place that there is not going back too. Thank you Carol

    Liked by 1 person

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