World Peace Order

Sitting here on the precipice, the full-moon-full-metal-jacket day before the tenth anniversary of 9-11, one cannot help but revisit the past. Author Lisa Yee put up a Facebook status report this morning accounting what she was doing (working out at the gym) when "it" happened. Aside from feeling like a lazy-ass because I was in bed (Pacific coast time for me is my only excuse, but Lisa lives in LA...) when I found out when my husband left work to come home to tell me to turn on the TV.

I sat there, in shock, and watched in horror as the city of my birth crumbled- and the world as I knew it disintegrated. I grew up in New York City. We couldn't afford to eat at Windows on the World, but my mom took me there just to look out the windows. My father knew one of the passengers on one of the planes that hit the towers...

And then there was the "issue" of my name. 

Laden. My last name, my birth name (even though I'm married to Booth Buckley, I didn't change my name all those years ago.) is five letters: l, a, d, e, n. It used to be Ladinski. My Polish grandfather, Ralph changed it to be "more American." We pronounce it "lay-den," just like the word. I was always embarrassed when a teacher read a passage like, "the ships were heavily laden," and everyone looked at me. Thankfully I wasn't heavy. In high school a few boys liked to call me "Nina got Laid-in-the-barn." Yes, I had a barn. No, I never got laid in it. The creamery, yes. The barn, no.

Anyway, so here I was sad, shocked and horrified about 9-11, and suddenly the letters of my last name were plastered on the papers and in the news everywhere. Not only did people start mispronouncing my name, they also started calling me- even though there is no "bin" in my name- and threatening me on the phone. Believe me, I am so NOT related. My ancestors are Jews. Yet the TSA put me on the No-Fly list for years. 

For years they would not let me check in. I had to get Port of Seattle police clearance every time I flew. After nine flights I threatened to go to the ACLU and then they gave me "corporate clearance." I'm a children's book author and illustrator and I was flying to speak in schools and inspire creativity... but to this day, they still search my bags every time I fly. 

However, I realize that my name "issues" are nothing compared to what so many other Americans went through. I am here. Intact. I cry, though, for my city, my natal home. I hurt for the way the world will never be the same. I thought about changing my name, but I thought that was trivial, and now I just laugh and tell people the correct pronunciation. 

The day after 9-11, September 12th, my husband and I paddled our kayaks around Golden Gardens in Seattle and were struck by the silence. I went back to my studio and wrote the following poem, and created the collage at the top of this post in my journal. 

I know this isn't anything earth-shattering, but it was just my initial reaction to how the world and life as we know it changed. On this anniversary, I wanted to cry with you and share it. I think if we share our feelings and try to understand each other, maybe there will be hope for that peace. And I hope you won't judge me because of those three consonants and two vowels that make up my last name.

Here is the poem, with love- Nina


The borders are closed.
The planes won't fly.
People sit and stare
At the TV and cry.

But come snow or sleet,
Terrorists or hail
The mailman arrives
To deliver the mail.

No letters
No bills
No statements
No magazines
No checks 
No postcards
No business reply...

It's sad but it's true
Junk mail catalogs
Are the only things
To get through.

Come national disaster,
Hell or high water
Operators are standing by
To take your order.

"I'd like World Peace
In "one size fits all."
Put it on my card.
I know it's a tall

But if your catalogs
Reach every American
Maybe they'll order it
Again and again.

We'll close all the bases
And open the borders.

Please overnight
My World Peace Order."

©Nina Laden 9/12/01

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful essay and poem, Nina. I remember the first time we met. We sat next to each other at a SCBWI faculty dinner, and I was complaining about having to go through airport security, and then you told me your name . . .


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