Most us know that the world is different place since 9/11, but Sydney comedian Simon Kennedy lives with that reality every day of his life.
Simon’s Mum, Yvonne Kennedy was enjoying a retirement holiday around Canada and the United States, when she boarded American Airlines Flight 77… the flight that crashed into the Pentagon.
Simon was asleep in his Maroubra home when he received a phone call from his brother, Leigh, who was living in London at the time. Leigh had seen news reports of a terrorist attack in the US and was worried about their mum. An eternal optimist, Simon thought his brother was just being paranoid, but to placate him, he dug out his mother’s itinerary. Little did he know that his entire life was about to change.
From that moment, Simon was thrust into a strange life that involved dealing with the FBI, meeting American Presidents and receiving regular correspondence from the Pentagon and the White house. In the early days, Simon kept his 9/11 identity separate from his identity as a comedian and was soon back on stage, working the Sydney comedy circuit.
“It took years for my actual comedy to change,” Simon says. “I started thinking, ‘I don’t want to do jokes that are completely meaningless. I want it to be me up there.’ And I felt very strongly about a lot of things. And one thing I felt strongly about was racism.”
Simon started to use his comedy to promote a message of racial and religious tolerance. But it was only after Osama bin Laden was killed that Simon started to speak publicly about his personal experience of 9/11. Everybody wanted to know how Simon felt about the death of Osama bin Laden. That was when he realised he had a message of forgiveness and tolerance that the world needed to hear.
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“There’s no place for hate. There’s no place for exclusion in my world view,” Simon says. “If you’re dealing with something nasty in your life, you’re trying to get over it, the last thing you want to do is to put all your energy into hating someone you don’t know, because you’re never going to get on with life.”
Simon’s parents were devout Catholics and he credits this background with teaching him the power of forgiveness. “As young people do, they often reject the concept of going to church, because it’s not as exciting as kicking a football, but I took away from that upbringing quite a lot and that is: Love your fellow man. And quite frankly, I like the world better that way.”
Simon shares his full story in his memoir 9/11 and the Art of Happiness.
Audio: Hear Simon Kennedy talk to Katrina Roe about the power of forgiveness and how 9/11 has changed him.
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