Reflecting on 9/11: Greendale is Just Another American Melting Pot
A Greendale mom reflects on what it was like losing a friend in the World Trade Center attacks, as well as raising kids in the Muslim faith in the wake of 9/11.
Like most of you, I'll never forget where I was on 9/11/01.
It was a peaceful morning at home. The television was off and I was enjoying our regular Tuesday morning routine -getting our oldest son ready for his day at Greendale Playschool, while the younger two played quietly nearby.
My husband called from work and told me, "Turn on the news right now!" As I sat there stunned, watching the events unfold, I remember looking over at our five-month old baby daughter and thinking to myself, "What kind of crazy world have we brought these kids into?"
Becoming a parent had certainly given me a new perspective on things.
It wasn't long before that fateful day that I had made a new friend in Greendale. Her name was Amy Ali and our sons were on the same t-ball team through the Greendale Park & Rec.
At the time, I didn't really give much thought to the fact that she was Muslim - we were just two moms cheering on our boys on the grass outside College Park Elementary School.
Looking back, though I realize how different her 9/11 experience was from mine.
While I had no personal connection other than the horror shared by a lot of Americans that day, she lost a good college friend in the attacks. Ramzi Doany was an accountant with Marsh & McLennan who was working on the 101st floor of the north tower when the first plane struck. He didn't make it out of the building before it collapsed.
"Ramzi Doany amassed friends. He amassed them with acts of kindness, like tutoring a woman with lupus, two children and no husband, to get her through college, or letting his college roommate and the roommate’s wife live in his condo for two years so they could save money for a down payment on a house.
He amassed friends with his sense of humor, which filled a room and flourished at an early age. As a boy of 9 or 10, young Ramzi dug a hole in the backyard for a terrible report card and put a stone on top. "He said it was dead and buried," said his sister, Dina Doany Azzam.
Mr. Doany was born to Palestinian parents in Amman, Jordan, and lived for many years in Milwaukee. At 35, he devoured the novels of Dickens, cooked Thanksgiving turkeys with great pride (even if they were just a bit dry) and had just bought a Harley- Davidson motorcycle.
He chose to work as a forensic accountant for Marsh & McLennan, the insurance brokerage company, because it would bring him to New York, a city he loved. The job also brought him to the World Trade Center."
Ali recalls "That night we went to a prayer service for Ramzi, hoping and praying he would be found. Later that month he was declared deceased and there was a memorial service for him. Many people came to his service, and in the church basement, different people got up and spoke of Ramzi and gave his sister Dina an idea as to how loved Ramzi was in our community. One comment was made during that moment that has remained with me to this day - 'We are already defeating these terrorists by standing here today, Muslims and Christians praying together and we will continue to defy them by standing together.'
His family also had a service for him in the city he grew up in - Amman, Jordan. He had more than three thousand people show up to his family’s home."
Looking back, I asked her if she experienced any negativity toward her or her family in the wake of 9/11 because they were Muslim.
"I was worried initially about backlash in the school for my son but he didn’t have any real issues," Ali says, "Everyone in Greendale was so kind and even had neighbors looking out for us. We did have the FBI watching our house for weeks following the incident and the neighbors would come to us and give us their license plates and tell us when they were there."
With the approach of the tenth anniversary of 9/11 and with kids who are now old enough to understand the events of that day, Ali says "We have had to teach our children that those terrorists do
not represent Islamic beliefs. The terrorists brought hatred to all. Islam is supposed to be a peaceful religion. We have taught them that even though we are Muslim, we are also Americans and we were affected by this tragedy like everyone in America, and more so because we lost a friend, Ramzi.
"We are the melting pot of the world and all religions and races were attacked that day and we need to stand together as Americans no matter what our background is."
As part of that melting pot, Ali goes on to say," I don’t feel we have been treated any differently than any other family in the community. Greendale is a great place to live and we feel that no one looks at us as a Muslim family, we are just another family in the bubble."
I'm happy to say both my friend and I each had another baby, born one month apart. Now, instead of cheering our kids on together at t-ball, we do it at dance classes.
Just the way it should be - no matter what religion we are.
And in some small way, I like to think that friendship honors the spirit of 9/11, as we stand together in Greendale and remember all those lives lost on that day, including that of Ramzi Doany.