I was in Cairo on September 11th, attending a study-abroad program through a consortium of Christian Universities in the US. I was returning home following school, crossing over the Nile into the neighborhood where my apartment was located when I realized I was being stared at. But they weren’t staring the way people would typically stare at me, namely as a mild oddity or as one might look at a stray dog. The looks I was being given seemed oddly compassionate. I knew immediately that something was wrong. I turned around and headed into the city to the American University dormitory. I arrived in the student lounge just as the first tower fell. That night the American students gathered together in an apartment for an impromptu prayer service but I left them and went for a walk in the dark streets of my neighborhood.
I was furious. I felt an anger I have only experienced a few times in my life. I dared anyone to touch me. As my shoes pounded the concrete sidewalks of inner city Cairo I almost invited confrontation. I had something to prove. Within a few blocks I had come across what I was looking for; at first glance they looked like a mob, a crowd of fifty-plus Egyptians huddled under a single street lamp. I could hear the noise rising up from among them but I couldn’t make out the tone or words. My first instinct to find an alternate route was overwhelmed by my fuming anger. I walked right up to them; the entire group became silent, turned and faced me. I stopped in the center of the street and we stared at each other for what seemed like a minute. I waited for something to happen. Here were the crazed Arabs who had destroyed the World Trade Centers, who had murdered what seemed like countless Americans in cold blood. Here on this dark street I had found the terrorists, and I was going to confront them. Then one solitary man walked out from them. He stopped within steps, my every muscle was tense with anticipation. But he extended his hand, and though I was stunned I took it. He then put his arm on my shoulder and with broken English told me how sorry he was about what had happened in the US. He led me toward the group of people and they came out to meet us. In turn they took my hands and in a near silence expressed their condolences. I had come upon a wedding party; on that dark street they were celebrating a union while all others mourned the incomprehensible destruction in the US. That night they made me their guest of honor. All my anger had melted away, and we danced.
With a background as an educator and project facilitator Jacob Kuntz, the Operations Coordinator for the Wild Goose Festival, has been involved in building education for reconciliation programs in Israel/Palestine, Northern Ireland and between Native and Non-Native youth in his home state of Montana. His interests include building both physical and technological spaces for engaged inter-cultural dialogue. He is excited to be included in the engaged with the always-entertaining Wild Goose team!