Vildan Kirby: Let’s return to grace we showed others after 9/11

A Turkish immigrant, who volunteered at Ground Zero, found appreciation for her new home by serving.

By Vildan Kirby / Herald Forum

One of the most profound moments of my life was volunteering at Ground Zero in New York City after Sept. 11, 2001. I was there while the rubble was still burning.

After work every day, I rushed to St. Paul’s Chapel to join the rescue and recovery efforts. We served meals to tired workers and made sure they had a place to rest.

A state official shook our hands and said we were true patriots. We needed to heal both New York and the entire country. I still love New York, but my home now is Lake Stevens; it’s where I have chosen to raise my family. I dearly love this community that I have called home for the past eight years.

At the time of attacks I was living in N.Y.C. working in an international advertising agency. We all knew someone in those buildings. My best friend used to work there as well. Thank goodness, she survived.

Living through three coups in Turkey, burying my poetry books to avoid jail, attending high school surrounded by gun violence, and having five sisters denied a higher education “because they were girls” all strengthened my appreciation for America and accessible education. I am grateful the United States is my home. I have seen what happens to a nation when truth and science are denied, and education is critical to defending the truth.

To me, a patriot is someone who cares and takes on the responsibility of defending the truth, defending science, serving our communities, and protecting our vulnerable residents.

We witnessed patriotism recently from health care workers, grocery workers, educators and parents teaching kids at home. Can we now give each other grace? Let’s work together to do everything we can to protect the most vulnerable population.

Vildan Kirby emigrated from Turkey in 1988, arriving in New York City on Thanksgiving Day. She became a U.S. citizen in 1996. She lived in New York for 17 years before moving to Lake Stevens, where she and her husband came to raise a family.

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