I will say again, that the World Trade Center Disaster became a gateway for me for understanding. I resolved to open my mind and heart and try to become a bridge in some way. I will never surrender to hate. I never thought about looking over the wall of Islam until post 9/11. I knew Muslims and had some friends, but never really thought about who they really were or what they thought.
The next year, in 2002, I found myself working with Algerians and Moroccans as equals. It was my first year working at Chateau Vieux Chevrol and I was just another grape picker. I spoke really lousy French. One of the workers, a Moroccan named Achmed, demonstrably let me know that he hated me because I was an American. He became my first victim of my wily plot. I was always next to him making bad jokes in my lousy French and trying to start conversations with him. At lunch, I sat down next to him and jabbered away. Pretty soon the rest of the workers got the hint and made sure my seat next to Achmed was reserved. Afte 4 days, he found himself working with me cutting grapes and he asked me in French if I had lived in New York and if I had seen the WTC Bombing. I started to try to tell him my story in my lousy French...his eyes bugged out of his head and after a few sentences, he stopped me and said quite clearly, "You know, I can speak English well."
I started to laugh and so did he! In fact he spoke english much better than he spoke French. He had worked all over Europe and was quite an interesting guy. We became pretty good friends. He and his cousin, Momo both liked to drink beer. Over 10 years later, we are still friends and Momo and his family are now like my relatives. We work together almost 2 months a year and I am always invited for dinner to their house. The first step to understanding is to admit that you don't understand.