America’s Ability to Endure in Hard Times: A Tribute to 9/11 and America

It’s easy to see why the attack of 9/11 touched our hearts and our souls so deeply. Patriotism to our country promises to satisfy some of our deepest psychological needs of security and attachment to a family. We are a family of Americans. Our ancestors settled here from all parts of the world to become one, under one nation.  We may never meet, but when push comes to shove, when we think someone is going to harm our great family, we unite together.

What a great melting pot America is. It is because the United States is made up of so many wonderful races and cultures that we are strong. Our ancestors have traveled here from all over the world, having to endure tough times to make America their homeland. Endurance is my topic today; it’s something that Americans know much about.

And, so do I.

I was lucky to learn about the rewards of endurance when I was very young— just seven years old. I remember the truck pulling up to our two-story flat in Chicago to take my mother, father, sisters and brothers to Elk Grove Village, a suburb of Chicago, Illinois. It is a vivid memory, as if it happened yesterday. My dad and uncle hauled furniture and boxes back and forth for hours. They joked together, as always. They were happy. So was I, especially when I was invited to ride up front with my dad and uncle in the truck that brought us to our new home.

I knew then that the move was a big event in all our lives, but I had little idea of what had happened to make it possible­—that for my parents it was a reward for successfully enduring the first leg of hardships they faced since coming to America. My parents had always kept an eye on the future, speaking of this move as a great adventure and a chance for a better life. I had no idea how much they had sacrificed to get to this point or that the need to endure had begun much earlier, in their Iranian homeland.

My father’s challenges had come early, at the hands of a tyrannical father who abused him throughout his childhood. My mother’s first major setback came at the age of fifteen, when an arranged marriage was forced upon her, ending her idyllic youth. These challenges, the first of many in their lifetime together, only made them stronger and more determined to succeed. Eventually, my father’s hard work hauling cargo enabled him to earn enough money to accomplish their dream—a move to America. In 1949, at the age of twenty-five, he traded in his Mac diesel truck for eighty Persian carpets, and my parents set off by ship for Ellis Island, eventually landing in Chicago, Illinois. They were young, hopeful, and trading their challenging life in Iran as Christian Assyrians for a piece of the American Dream.

Like many immigrants, my parents soon found that life in America had its own share of frustrations and disappointment. However, it never occurred to either of them to hold a grudge or to seek revenge. No matter what misfortunes or roadblocks they faced, they sought what was true and good in themselves and those around them. Endurance was my parents’ way, the source of wisdom and wonder that protected their lives and, eventually, the lives of their children.

Although I was very young at the time, I think I must have understood that our move to the suburbs was a reward of some kind, and this made a great impression on me. Of course, I could not see what lay directly up ahead—that we were about to face a whole new set of challenges. Perhaps their stamina and spirit had already rubbed off on me, and I knew that no matter what challenges lay ahead, we would approach them as before, with patience, determination, curiosity and awe.

Most of us are tested countless times in our personal lives. On 9/11/2001, we were tested as a country. At times of great paradigmatic change, challenges seem to arrive out of the blue, presenting us with such hardship that we have no idea how we will survive. Such times require us to look deep within, with one single heart and mind, and face the impossible task that lies before us. When we lose people we love, our jobs, marriages, or our good health, it is our ability to accept what has happened to us that helps us move on. It is acting with our whole spirit, and approaching our problems with strength, grace and integrity, that helps us to endure, as people, as Americans.

To this day, whenever I meet my own challenges head on, I feel the same triumph of that young girl riding up in the front of the truck with her dad and uncle. I understand all that led up to that triumphant moment, and that it was not any outward measure of success, but my parents’ ability to respond positively to life circumstances that was their greatest achievement. Their lifelong stance of patience, willpower, and faith would form the basis of my personality and the foundation of my life. I would come to understand and ultimately to teach others that endurance is its own reward.

So, let me say, I’m happy we are family. God Bless America and all of the wonderful immigrants from all over the world who makeup our great country. With much love, Deborah.

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