Remembering September 11, a dialogue
Written by Elena Huegel
September 2002
September 1, 2002


A. I was an ordinary woman.
C. I was an ordinary woman.
A. Who lived a normal life.
C. Who lived a normal life.
A. My husband carpooled to work. I shopped at the mall.
C. My husband rode the bus to work. I made my own clothes.
A. I waited in long lines at the check out counter in the grocery store.
C. I waited in long lines at the bakery for the daily rationing.
A. I took my children to baseball games, movies and amusement parks.
C. I watched my children play with a rag ball in the street.
A. Then one morning ...
C. Then one morning ...
A. I heard a plane fly by very low overhead.
C. I heard the planes take off from the military base.
A. And watched with horror as it crashed into a building downtown.
C. And suddenly heard explosions downtown.
A. I ran inside and turned on the TV.
C. I ran inside and turned on the radio.
A. Panic immobilized me as another plane crashed into the second tower.
C. My heart stopped as our president spoke his last words before the transmission went dead.
A. Fire engulfed the towers as they collapsed in a cloud of dust that burst over the city.
C. Gunfire erupted as the troops began to search and scourge through the city.
A. Somehow I know my man will never come home.
C. Little did I know my man would never come home.
A. With my cell phone in my hand, I waited. My flicker of hope faded with the sunset.
C. I waited more than 25 years with hope at each sunrise.
A. He disappeared with so many others in the flames and the rubble.
C. He disappeared with so many others who were herded into the stadium.
A. Why do they hate us?
C. Who are our enemies?
A. Faceless ghosts flitting in and out and leaving terror in their wake.
C. What did we do to them that they should do this to us?
A. They lived in our towns, went to our schools, hijacked our planes, and killed our people.
C. They bought out our newspapers, infiltrated our military, flew the planes they sold us, and incited the killing.
A. How dare they attack the heart of our country and destroy our symbols of freedom, economic stability and democracy?
C. How dare they attack the heart of our country and destroy the presidential palace, symbol of freedom, popular suffrage and democracy?
A. Our military leaders brought to their knees by violence at the door of their stronghold.
C. Our military leaders kneeling before them as their ships lay waiting off our coast.
A. And my man never came home.
C. And my man never came home.
A. And I know fear as a weight settling in the pit of my stomach.
B. And fear became a pit I struggled to climb out of.
A. I dared not open the mail, afraid of death in an envelope.
C. I dared not open the door, afraid of death in plainclothes.
A. I dared not send my children to summer camp, afraid of airplanes and airports.
C. I dared not let my children play outside, afraid of tanks, tear gas, random shootings.
A. Deep inside I barely survive, alone and afraid.
C. Deep inside, for many years, I barely survived, alone and afraid.
A. Hate is one step behind fear.
C. Hate was one step behind fear.
A. Today, I want them to hurt as badly as I did.
C. Twenty-eight years later, I watched them hurt as badly as I did. (She looks over at the other woman.)
A. I think I could never forgive them. (Crumples to the ground.)
C. I thought I could never forgive them. (Touches the back of the other woman, who looks up at her, then extends her hand to help her to her feet.)
A. I am an American woman (lights a match).
C. I am a Chilean woman (lights a match).
A. And my life changed on September 11, 2001.
C. And my life changed on September 11, 1973.

Both light a candle together.

Elena Huegel is a Common Global Missions missionary, serving with the Pentecostal Church of Chile.

In Santiago, Chile, on Sept. 11, 1973, the presidential palace was bombed and Chile's democratically elected government was overthrown. President Salvador Allende died in the coup and dictator Augusto Pinochet began a reign of terror, rounding up all "dissidents" and herding them into the National Stadium, where they were tortured, shot and buried in mass graves. During the next several years, many college students, professor, artists and musicians were arrested, tortured and assassinated or jailed.

Pinochet was able to gain power with the support of covert operations of the U.S. military. Usually, on Sept. 11 in Chile, there are numerous protest marches against the dictatorship, its disregard of human rights, and the U.S. involvement in the happenings. Last year, there were prayer vigils instead.

When this dialogue was read during worship in the Amistad Chapel in Cleveland, it was very powerful. The piece upends our suppositions about who are the victims of September 11 and ends with forgiveness and reconciliation.