My 9/11 Story – Love Is The Key

​If you are of a certain age, you’re among the many of us who have a September 11, 2001 “Where were you?” story.

Mine involved focusing on things that have long mattered most to me: ​

  • striving to be​ a​ caring​ mother
  • ​striving to ​be a​ ​courageous storyteller
  • ​intentionally ​using my words to make a difference.

That day was my first day back​ at work as a newspaper reporter, after a 12-week maternity leave​.​


I​’d placed my infant son in ​his babysitter’s arms and dropped off my daughter at a ​nearby ​preschool, and was ​settling​ at my desk just before 8 a.m. ​in​ the quiet newsroom.

Suddenly, a photographer ran past me and yelled to turn on the TV – a plane had hit one of the Twin Towers in New York City. Then a friend called to welcome me ​bac​k and to share that she’d just seen live news reports about the plane crash. Together, we watched as a​ second​ plane hit the second tower, and we knew the world had changed.


After reminding myself that both of my kids were in good care, with people who loved them and would keep them safe, I did what journalists do – went right into reporter mode, knowing that I’d have to somehow help make sense of this madness for residents of Central Virginia and beyond.​


​Within the hour, I was driving down a winding road south of the city to visit a local mosque. ​ ​Despite ​growing fears for safety ​in the wake of the terrorists attacks, ​t​he​ Imam (spiritual leader)​ trusted me enough to ​let me inside the building, which was teeming with young children, because it doubled as a daycare and preschool.

There was mayhem. The phones kept ringing with ​death threats​, ​frightened​​​​​ parents ​showed up to pick up ​their children and ​the Imam​ sought to keep everyone ​calm​.


I saw fear and hurt in his eyes, both over the tragedy that had occurred ​in our nation a​​​​nd over the need to defend himself and ​the Muslims he knew and loved​.​ He requested that I use my news article to remind people that not all Muslims are terrorists and that he, too, was grieving.


On my drive back to the ​Richmond Times-Dispatch ​newsroom, the radio waves were eerily silent and my cell phone wouldn’t work. ​I returned to learn from colleagues about the attack at the Pentagon and the crash of another plane that was believed to be headed to Washington, D.C.​


I sat at my desk and wrote about the Imam’s plea ​for people ​to look past ethnicity ​and ​into hearts​,​ and not to harm Americans who looked him or those in his spiritual care because of the hateful and evil acts of others – acts he also denounced.

That conversation with him, and witnessing the distress at the mosque that day, led me to write a year-long series of newspaper columns about people of various faiths – Muslims, Quakers, Sikhs, Buddhists, Christians and more – and to use their personal journeys to educate readers about ​​​​​​​the principles of each religion, so that perhaps we could really “see” our neighbors, colleagues and strangers and find some common ground.


​What my readers (and I ) discovered through my columns is that ​regardless of the different commandments​, laws and practices of the various faiths, the​ primary mandate of ​absolutely ALL of them is to​ LOVE,​ and to use love as a guide to honor God, ​live peaceably with others and​ ​flow positively through this world.

Sometimes ​love must be ​giving.

Sometimes ​love must be sacrificial.

Sometimes love sets boundaries.

All of the time love can heal and produce hope​​.


​This isn’t as easy at it sounds, of course, which is why people of faith are always “practicing” their faith.​ But leading with love never fails and never goes out of style.

Twenty years later, as we remember this significant and painful day of loss and fear, may we also remember the love that followed in the aftermath. And may we continue striving to look past what we see on the surface and give others’ hearts a chance, while having the courage to share our own.

Remembering 9/11: Beauty for Ashes

By Stacy Hawkins Adams
Today I’m remembering 9/11/01 and honoring the lives lost and the heroes who stepped forward in the aftermath of that tragic day. Where were you on that day 16 years ago?
It was my first day back in the Richmond Times-Dispatch newsroom after giving birth to my son. He was 12 weeks old and in the care of his loving sitter, “Nana.” I had scheduled an interview with the leader of a local Muslim worship center for an inspirational column I wrote at that time. (Talk about “coincidence.”)
After the planes hit the towers that morning, we reporters leapt into action. The Muslim worship center (mosque), which was filled with children attending classes, went on lockdown as fearful parents showed up to claim their students; but the Imam trusted me and still allowed me to come and enter. He shared how heartbroken he and many others were over this tragedy.
As we remember the devastation of that day, let’s also remember the humanity that was birthed from the ashes. May we continue to seek and serve the humanity in others, trusting that love really is the antidote to all hate.