I remember NYC on 9/11

May Ling Su at Ground Zero of the World Trade Center on 9/11This photo was taken at Ground Zero of what remains of the World Trade Center. On September 14, three days after the planes crashed and burned the Twin Towers, it rained. By nightfall the rain ceased and dust settled in the city. It was time to go to the funeral.

I headed for East Village. St. Mark’s Place was bustling. People were in shock but in good spirits, a camaraderie that graciously emerges when tough times unite a group of people. I had Japanese noodles at a hole in a wall so crowded it felt like the end of the world. We all slurped our noodle soups like it was. After that I knew I was ready for my pilgrimage downtown.

I walked around the barricades to make my way closer to the ruins. Even in shattered pieces, the World Trade Center was impossibly huge. First responders worked round the clock. I took a good look and got out of their way. I bought an American flag off a vendor and tucked it into my bag as I walked away. The subway smelled of Lysol and burnt flesh. Firefighters off their shift slumped in their seats on the train. They stared dead ahead of them in between nods at people who thanked them for their service.

I had a ticket for Rocky Horror Picture Show on Broadway in my pocket, purchased weeks prior. The show was going on that night and I wasn’t about to miss it. Dick Cavett was the Narrator. He talked about life and death and life going on. Each one of us with beating hearts do our part to keep life going.

Back then, New Yorkers were in it together, regardless of race, religion, or political affiliation. How did that same event that united a city become the catalyst to a war with no end in sight?

Love, Lust, & Liberty,
May Ling Su

America the Brave and the Free

America the Brave and the Free First Amendment Freedom of Speech

I remember the day I became an American. I stood with a group of strangers from all walks of life and over the world. Together, we each raised our right hand and recited the Oath of Allegiance. I found myself holding back tears and swallowing down a lump in my throat as we collectively sang the Star Spangled Banner. Our journeys thus far and our dreams of the future shone in our eyes. This is the promised land for the brave and the free.

While watching fireworks last night I thought about that song again. I thought about that flag that “was still there” despite the rockets and the bombs. Quite possibly that flag was singed, torn, tattered with holes, but it endured. And strangely enough that ratty old flag inspires me to keep going when the going gets tough.

Reaching for the American Dream isn’t easy. No one hands it out on a silver platter, especially not to a woman of color. I’ve had to compromise myself. I have battle scars. I’m damaged goods. But every day I get up even when I feel like it would be easier to crawl into a hole and die.

Freedom is risky. It’s safer to go along with the herd, keep your head down, do what’s expected of you. Freedom of speech means speaking up when there is injustice. Freedom of expression means being open to criticism, opposition, and shaming. Freedom requires courage.

Dare to be free, my little munchkins. You can come out now.

Love, Lust, and Liberty,
May Ling Su