Weekly Volcano Blogs: Walkie Talkie Blog

September 13, 2010 at 7:54am

Table For Oly brings it home

Photography by Christian Carvajal

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THE PERFECT 9/11 >>>

When I woke up last Saturday, Facebook was ablaze with remembrances of Sept. 11 and debates about the advisability of constructing an interfaith community center, including a Muslim prayer room, two blocks from Ground Zero.  I don't mind telling you I cried many times over what happened that awful morning, the last time in late December 2001. My mom and I went from Ground Zero to Rockefeller Center.  Flags waved, Arab immigrants sold falafel to rich white businessmen, and defiant children ice skated in the middle of an historic blizzard.  Loudspeakers promised, "War is over, if you want it."  So that's what was on my mind this particular morning, 9/11/2010, as I prepared a simple Thai noodle dish to share at the Table for Olympia community potluck.  Gray skies threatened Olympia's Fifth Avenue, and I wasn't in the mood for conviviality.

We arrived at 4 sharp, disappointed to find only a long, empty table.  A handful of information booths were set up curbside by volunteer organizations like Stand Up for Kids (standupforkids.org), a group that helps the hundreds of homeless and street kids in Olympia get on with their lives.  (This year's Table for Olympia was sponsored by the Volunteer Center and Olympia Action Network.)  A few such kids and homeless adults hovered nearby, waiting for a much-needed meal; but the street looked mostly desolate. Clearly, this event would be delayed until 4 p.m. Olympia Standard Time.

Suddenly, less than an hour later, as the skies cleared beautifully and the temperature touched 70 degrees, there were hundreds of us. Dishes were uncovered, paper plates distributed, and the mingling began. My friend Ben's vegetarian beans were an instant hit, followed quickly by my girlfriend's cucumber salad. Vegans lunged in like Space Invaders. Carnivores formed their own school of 3-D piranha, descending ravenously on a baking dish laden with roast pork, scouring it clean within minutes. I ate till I felt as if I'd swallowed a naked singularity. Waves of people showed up, far too many to count, each with a new buffet of homemade favorites. I gave up. Adam Richman couldn't manage four hours of this bounty. Kobayashi would throw in the towel. But what satisfied most wasn't glutting my friends and myself, it was watching those bedraggled teens and street people approach hesitantly, polite but famished, and eat till they were smiling and full. We were one big happy community, just as event organizers assured us we would be. Mathias Eichler, who instituted Table for Olympia last year and served as this year's media consultant, smiled proudly near the head of the table. It didn't feel like 9/11. It felt like Thanksgiving.

Obviously there should be an annual Day of Remembrance for what happened nine years ago, but it'd be a mistake to devote each and every 9/11 to ruminating over lives lost, the grief we shared, and where we were at 8:46 Eastern Time that morning. Table for Olympia represents the perfect commemoration, as the true strength of our nation isn't our ability to build somber memorial gardens or a matching pair of office skyscrapers - it's our unity, which we construct one community at a time.

Comments for "Table For Oly brings it home" (2)

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christine Hansen said on Sep. 14, 2010 at 5:16pm

Nikki,
Like always a great discription of the events around Olympia. I always enjoy reading, keep up the good work!!
Christine

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Nikki Talotta said on Sep. 15, 2010 at 9:41am

Thanks Christine! But the credit belongs to the talented Christian Carvajal.

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