New Canaan Students Gain A Global Perspective on an American Tragedy

A distinguished panel reflects on lessons learned post-Sept 11 and stresses the value of community to ensuring peace at the local and international level.

students heard from some at a symposium about the on Tuesday, Sept. 27. But they also heard some very different perspectives about the events of a day that organizers hoped would .

, the Founding Director of , , a New Canaan parent, teacher and volunteer and author Bonnie McEneaney were there, and so were Palestinian-American Amer Nimr, the Reverend Nicholas T. Porter, rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Southport, and Dr. Marin Strmecki, the Senior Vice President and Director of Programs at the Smith Richardson Foundation in Westport.

Nimr, the son of a Jordanian ambassador, was born in Jerusalem. He is a board member of Rushmore House, a non-profit organization that finds and provides scholarship opportunities for Palestinian students wishing to study in the US.

“When that day occurred, it was an incredibly painful day for me for different reasons," he said.

Unlike the others, he said when the first plane hit he knew if was not an accident. His fervent hope he said was that the incident was not related to the Middle East.

When his worst fears were realized, he admitted that beyond the tragic loss of life, he worried what it would mean for his family and community.

Porter has studied the Middle East at universities around the world and was the Curate of St. George's Cathedral in Jerusalem. He spoke of the sense of loss and hopelessness of that time, and said he and his family found their own salvation in the founding of a camp that includes American, Israeli and Palestinian teens.

Nimr said divisions cannot be healed until we recognize the humanity in each person.

"We are only part of the world, we are not the full world," Nimr said. "We can't only have empathy for people we know personally ... lack of empathy leaves fertile ground for bigotry."

While he said he still sees a sense of polarization in the US he spoke with hope to the audience of teens, "Your generation is way more honest, thank goodness, and inclusive, I think, than mine."

He added, "when we recognize what binds us, that makes us all safer."

Dr. Strmecki, who has served in the federal government during several administrations and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, has a wealth of foreign policy experience, particularly in Afghanistan.

He talked about the importance of community cooperation and personal understanding, at the international level as well.

Strmecki stressed that our greatest diplomatic successes post-Sept. 11 were in Afghanistan when we worked as partners with the people against the Taliban and al Qaeda.

He said the US in the '90's thought it could "take a holiday from history," by disengaging internationally. Instead, he said, we learned all too painfully that we can not break away from the world community.

Strmecki told the story of an Afghan elder who marveled at the Americans who not only drove out the oppressive Taliban regime, but recognized the Afghan people were also their victims.

The Afghan told the US ambassador that he was amazed at the generosity of spirit of America. As Strmecki recounted, he said, "I want to visit this America someday, I want to meet these very special people."

Also on the program were the , the , a student film on 9/11 by Kyle Conner, which included original music composed by the Music Tech class taught by , and senior Nick DePuy, who performed a commemorative song of his own composition.


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