Izzy Boncimino's 9-11 Commemoration Speech

Izzy Boncimino
University Christian Ministry Student
The Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications - 2012

I'm not embarrassed to admit I didn’t know what 9/11 meant for the world while we were watching the events unfold. On the news, it seemed like a movie. When I discussed it with neighbors, it was tragic gossip. When I went over it in class, it was just history. I didn’t know what was going on, but I was desperate to find out – “Tell me more.”

I remember hearing news of death threats to local mosques, about hostility towards anyone outside the whitebred American stream. I remember feeling confused as to why these groups in particular had been targeted, these groups located within the United States who in most cases had expressed their sadness at what happened. Confusion because I didn’t know if I was supposed to feel that same hostility and righteous patriotism or if I should continue treating everyone with respect and empathy, no matter what their background was. I was taught that our differences were to be celebrated, and the only rationalization I could come up with was that the void of knowledge was most easily filled by fear.  

For me, 9/11 meant a shift in how we approach different cultures and perspectives – a shift towards mutual respect, towards a genuine interest in understanding where the other is coming from. I don’t understand, not yet, but I want to know – “Tell me more.”

I see it in the panels we hold with different student groups here at Northwestern, in the information sessions and flyers peppering our campus, in the host of activities and partnerships between different cultural and religious student groups. I see it in how travel is more common today, how cultural exchange and empathy are valued more than a lack of interest in the world around us. I see it in how I intentionally pursue people with different backgrounds because I want to understand where they’re coming from. People can tell when you really care about what they have to say, and in my few travels abroad, this trait has meant more than any preconceived history or media perception someone might have of me and my culture.

For me, 9/11 has meant a change in thinking from “Let me tell you,” to “Tell me more.” Everyone I’ve spoken with, both here and abroad, has told me they were deeply saddened by what happened ten years ago today. The way I come to terms with it is a proactive one, and I don’t think I’m alone. For me, my mission is to understand, to listen and to empathize rather than argue or become defensive. I don’t understand everything right now, but I want to, I need to – would you please tell me more?

Thank you.