The Candlelight Vigil and Rally that we held in Jackson Heights, Queens, the most culturally diverse Borough of our City, focused on our collective grief as South Asian Americans living in New York City and elsewhere in the United States. We felt the pang of loss of our beloved and much admired (or in some cases, much reviled) skyline. We mourned the loss of women and men, firefighters, cops and rescue workers, janitors, restaurant workers, techies and traders.
Several days before, I had gone to Jackson Heights with a backpack full of INSAF flyers shielding myself with a small green umbrella against a driving rain that threatened to undo my handiwork, as I taped flyers on walls and store windows. Being a professor and therefore able to work flexible hours, I was able to get down to the shopping area by subway, despite scary delays, flyer all over the shopping area and double back in time to teach an evening class.
The next day I was in New Jersey at a rally in the town of Edison. Through a combination of circumstances, I clambered into the back of a sedan, again armed with INSAF flyers and with the actor Sunil Dutt sitting in front. Dutt made a sincere and moving speech. A neck and back brace sustained in a flying accident did not dampen his commitment to share the grief of Americans. Scores of speakers representing the spectrum of religious and political beliefs took their turns at the podium. I was invited to speak as well. Later Zee TV gave me an opportunity to speak about the importance of South Asian Americans uniting together in New York, New Jersey and the across the United States. To speak with one voice against terrorism. To mourn with one another as South Asians joined together against wanton destruction and murder in the city that is our home.
Every day is a struggle. Through numerous conversations we affirm our great good fortune to be alive and tell each other of twinges of guilt at being allowed to live. It shall feel this way for some time to come, as the weather becomes cool, then cold and the bodies of innocent women and men lie under the rubble.