Tuesday, September 12, 2006

9/11/01: Where were you?

I remember many things vividly. Hurricane Andrew. Where I was when Kashif proposed. My wedding day. Certain memories are etched in your mind forever. However many of us share one common memory perhaps forever etched in the minds of the generation that was alive to witness it: September 11, 2001.

It was my first year of teaching and my students had just gone to Music class at 9:00am. I was at the front desk of the school checking my mailbox when I noticed that the television was on. That's odd. I walked up to look at what everyone's eyes were riveted to. I remember seeing before registering a white plane hitting a large building. My first thought: what movie is this a trailer for? My second thought: An inexperienced pilot flying a small plane accidentally hit a building. I still remember watching with horror as a second plane hit the other tower. And it wasn't a small plane. A commercial airliner with people onboard.

I remember the rest of the day being in a daze as students did busy work and I frantically searched the internet and emailed friends to understand what was going on. I prayed with all my heart the prepetrators were not Muslim. But they were.

I remember September 12. The radio announcers declaring their hatred for all things Muslim. NPR urging Muslim school children to stay home. I remember frantically calling my little brother's schools, urging them to go home. I remember the angry look from the woman at Subway. The cool glare from the man at Home Depot in the battery aisle.

I remember feeling grief for the innocents. Feeling overwhelmed. Feeling helpless. Feeling angry. And uncertain about my future. Five years later, as I see hatred for me rise with each passing day... if I had to sum up how I feel today: I miss September 10 with all my heart. (thanks Shabs)


Mia said...

Thanks for sharing your memory of the day. It's amazing how this world has changed because of that one day. Sadly it hasn't been all for the better has it? I hope the day never comes when that Mike Gallagher idea comes to light. It reminds me too much of Nazi Germany. Heaven forbid.

Reza said...

I was in Pakistan, had applied for my visa and was sitting in the evening eating some samosas and drinking chai. Literally chocked on the basiny delight at the horror unfolding on the tv.

mAn[S]o0r said...

I was home with friends, group studying for a test the next day, after bidding farewell to them, i came upstairs, switched on the TV n for the next four hours.. was glued in front of it with my family.

Oh yea, and i am in Pakistan

momyblogR said...

I was sitting at my kitchen table feeding my kids, Michael was two and Mina 9 months....I saw the same thing you did. The first plant hit, but was it an accident? Then the second one came on the screen and thought, " Oh My GOD! It's going to hit the tower, then it did. I just remember feeling like I didn't really see it.

I called my husband at work to tell him what had happen. When the towers fell, I stood in the kitchen and cried, I mean just wept. The sense of grief was overwhelming. Then I paniced. My hubbys brother was on the subway on his into Manhattan. It's funny because so much of that day is foggy for me but the the parts that aren't sadden me greatly.

I clearly remember thinking, "Who would do such a thing?" When it all came to light, I decided I didn't like the men that were involved in all of it. But ONLY the men, NOT what kind of men they were. They were and are bad people because of what they did and NOT because they are Muslim.

There are beautiful people in all races and religions, just like there horrilbe people.

Why does one thing have to do with another?

I too wish for Sept. 10th back

mystic-soul said...

I was on 4th floor starting my work and one of my muslim coworker broke news to me. We rushed to break-room and drama unfolded on TV. I was completely shocked and praying..God, these should not be muslims...And than second plane hit the tower...

That one day had changed a lot in my life. America, which I called home with all my sincerity never remained the same for me and all I know.

I was lucky to have very supportive staff. Didn't feel any hatred at workplace but outside was another story.

I wish I can omit that day from my life. It has put the seed of destructive hatred in this nation.

Huda said...

It's interesting reading your memories of September 12 because mine are so opposite.

On 9/11, when I called my father to tell him I was okay (not that I was anywhere near NYC or DC, but he is the type that worries), he told me to take my hijab off because he was afraid of a post-Oklahoma-City style reaction from the general public. Later, my super-hijabi mother said the same thing. I flat-out refused because the only reason I will ever take my hijab off is if I no longer believe in it, and I'm certainly not going to stop wearing it out of fear.

In the days after 9/11, I did notice people looking at me, but for every person that seemed a little hostile, there were half a dozen more who were merely curious or even somewhat protective. The guys at work formed a phalanx around me whenever we went into the public areas of the building. My non-Muslim friends called to see if I wanted someone to go with me to the grocery store or the mall. My non-Muslim friends' parents called to make sure I wasn't being harrassed.

I expected something to happen, even if it was some guy shouting obscenities from across the street, but nothing ever did. I was working a LOT, so I didn't have time to run all over the city, but I did go out. I did all my normal things, and the most I ever got was questions about how I felt about what had happened.

I know some awful stuff did happen immediately after 9/11, but Alhumdulillah, all I can say is that I personally experienced nothing but the good from my fellow Americans.

That being said, I too miss September 10.

Shabina said...

aw. jazaks for the shoutout, aisha. the kid in me def yearns for the innocence of sept. 10.

but the adult in me says everything happens for a reason. these are the cards we've been dealt, and i suppose we've gotta make the best of 'em.

khair iA...

Aisha said...

Sorry for the late responses guys. My application is kicking my butt.... :(

Mia- its frightening but more frightening that we dont learn from history.... Interestingly I hear that the people of NYC where the site of the tragedy occurred arent as hate mongering as the rest of the country.

Reza, Mansoor, I find it fascinating that people so far away were so riveted by what happened here in the US. Why did it affect you guys so profoundly?

Mommybloggr, I could see your memory clearly in my mind. I know you are not the sort to hate all b/c of the acts of a few. That's why I love ya :). But on some level I can understand why people do hate all Muslims... its easier to hate.... behind hate is fear... behind fear is lack of knowledge. Its easier to shut down and hate a group rather than try to understand. Things like "muslim only" like the link in my article... they take away fear... to think there are some godo some bad.. that gives some people a headache. but each person is different. i wish there were more people like you out there.

Mystic, Huda, you are fortunate that nothing bad happened and instead you were shown kindness. I didnt get slurs either but I got weird looks. coworkers askign me if was related to the hijackers. stupid s!@# like that. I did have friends that got slurs thrown at them... but its ignorance given a chance to shine... i'm sure it was always there buried under social propriety.

Shabs, true everything does happen for a reason... and we can't look back. but sometimes emotions overwhelm and you wish things were the way they used to be.

Abdusalaam said...

As odd as this may sound, I vaguely remember 9/11. I do remember where I was and who I was watching the News with as the towers fell; but there is no clear mental image that I can recall, from that day. And I think the only reasonable explaination would be that I didn't, and I still don't, feel any real sense of connectedness ( Did I just make up a word?) with the people who were going through it on that fateful day.

I didn't realize how seriously people would take the events of 9/11 until the next day when I saw other peoples reaction to the tragedy. It was only after I had met other people outside my close circle of friends, did I realize this happening was bigger than I had initially thought of. For me 9/11 was like any other human tragedy I had witnessed in the recent past. At that time, collapse of the WTC was similar to the American Embassy bombings in Kenya and that other African country, which I can't recall right now but if I had to take a guess I'd say Tanzania.

Another example would be the truck bombing at the American military installation in Al-Khobar in Saudi Arabia. Grave events as they were, I'm pretty sure neither you or anybody on this blog remembers what they were doing on those two immensely terrible days, inspite of the fact they were US related tragedies.

Moreover, for me back then, New York and DC were places on TV, just like Beijing and Tokyo might be for most people here. I had never been there and I knew nobody who lived in those two cities.

I guess the reason I say all of this is because whenever this topic comes up in a conversation, people expect I would remember the day just like the way they do because I was here in the US too. And if I say I don't, I am somehow seen as someone indifferent to the pain and suffering of Americans. Why does there have to be two extremes? I too can empathize without sharing your exact same experiences. So stop friggin judging me!

Okaaay, I don't know who I was addressing in that last bit up there but rest assured it was nobody on this blog. I guess this comment turned into an opportunity to vent.

Aisha said...

Abdusalaam, wow, thanks for your input. I responded to you on your blog since you posted about this very comment.

Jane said...

A Muslim only line at the airport? Oh sure! As long as we are at it, why not separate drinking fountains, restrooms, and put you at the back of the bus? Hell, let's round you all up and have you all live in the same area so we non-Muslims can keep an eye on you, keep you out of trouble.
As Mia would say, WTF?

My position on this whole issue is that Islam is not the problem, Muslims are not the problem. Fanatical crazy zealots are the problem.

rehtwo said...

Your comment regarding how you feel is perfect - I can't imagine what it is like to face those looks, those stares, and I am so sorry that you do.

Aisha said...

Rehtwo, I must be fair that I dont get those looks anymore. But it scares me that they surfaced. Almost like ghosts hiding beneath the surface. I also have to say that though for example my friend Huda commented she was comforted by the outreach to her, in some ways that hurt me too... for example, one guy at school came up to me the next day and put both hands on mine and said really sympathetically "sweetie. I dont blame you. its not your fault. you know that right?" he's a kind old man and I know he meant well but WHY would I think its my fault. I dont know them! I didnt tell them to do it!!!! WHY am I being forgiven?

Jane well said. Thank you!

Mia said...

Aisha I think the reason that we in NYC are not as hate mongering ( is that even right? sounds good to me it's late so let's let it go shhhh)

Anywho the reason I think we're more enlightened than the rest of the country is because we're such a diverse city of people. I mean where else can you hear an Arab call an African-American Mami and Papi which is slang for sweetheart in Spanish?

I'm not saying we don't have our share of idiots but in a city so full of temples, mosques, and churches not to mention accents from every corner of the world it's hard to be so ignorant.

Mia said...

Jane I love the fact you're quoting my WTF! lmao

Bee Amma said...

please go to google video and watch the documentary "loose change"

Aisha said...

Bee, I heard of that Kashif saw it and said it was pretty good.

Mia, I don tknow. I think its more than that. There is something more. I grew up in Miami which was very diverse. And there were issues between the Argentinians and the Cubans and the Columbians, I mean they are all from South America and they had issues. There were issues between Punjabis and we're both from Pakistan. I mean I dont think there was violence but there was prejduice and tension and dislike. But Miami was so diverse. Do youthink it might also be that where you live is more of a community feel? People get to know eahc other longer? Or is transient? Atlanta is quite transient which is why I wonder if those tight bonds between races aren't formed.. they dont have time to form.

Huda said...

Hmm, I guess I should clarify, because nobody told me they didn't blame me. THAT would have made me mad. I really can't believe somebody said that to you.

The way my friends/colleagues/acquaintances reacted to me was more making sure nobody else had blamed me.

mAn[S]o0r said...

why did it affect us so profoundly? Because america was the *destination of choice* back then, when many of my family members live there, and where someday i also wanted to go.

When the planes hit.. i could see my dreams falling apart.....

Minka said...

I remember being terrified when george Bush said:
"You are either with us or against us!"
No culture is without its sinners...

Aisha said...

Huda, true, becuase the "we don't blame you" is a bit... I dunno.

Minka, that is a bit frightening. What is Iceland? With or against? lol

Mansoor your comment made me very sad. I know people that had to leave in the middle of their studies back to their home countries. Its very sad. Do people from Pakistan have less enthusiasm to wanting to come to the US?

William Smith said...

I was in bed at my home in Kemptville, Ont. I was woken up by my wife yelling to me about a plane hitting the Trade Center, the first one. This is my first visit to your site Aisha, I like it very much and will stop back again.

Tee said...

I don't want to take myself back to where I was that day.

That's amazing that it was your first day teaching. What are the chances of that. Because those 2 events happend on the same day do you ever feel it tainted how you felt walking into the school from then on?

Thanks for sharing another (sad) perspective on how things changed that day. It's certainly not something that comes first to my mind, but I'm sure it is for Muslims.

Just know that while hatred may grow in some, understanding and a desire to reach out grows in others.

momyblogR said...

Ok, it's Wednesday! How do you think you did...my goodness, I feel very anxious, lol!

Regardless, I know you gave it your best shot. All good things happen in time, the RIGHT time! If it's now, fabulous...if not there will be a better time to come!


Mia said...

You know what Aisha I think you're right about us being a community. We get so many diverse cultures coming into this city and settling in. They eventually become part of the city's heart. We adopt each others foods, their languages become part of New Yorkese speak. But the thing is that at the end of the day we are all New Yorkers and we look out for each other.

Aisha said...

William, thanks for sharing your experience. Welcome to the site and I do hope you'll visit again.

Tee, it was my second week of teaching but my first year of teaching. It actually shaped the rest of my teaching career. Kids came to me days after telling me what their parents said at home. Lets just say they werent too polite about the fact that I was from Pakistan as one 7 year old put it "MS S get all your family outta Pakistan!!" when I said "why?" she said "my mamma told me bad people live there.. people that like killing" OK. One student in my class was from Iraq and they started teasing her, imagine that! at such a young age. I had to go and get children's literature on bullying, on stereotypeing and I think those kids learned a lot about such things.

Momyblogr you are SO sweet to remember. I emailed you :)

Mia, I think thats a big part of it... I had that in Miami many years ago. We all loved each other in our neighborhood. Blocked off the street every 4th of July for block parties. Walked over to hang out with neighbors. Come to think of it, it was like a big family. I don tknow if its like that anymore. Television and video games has takenchildren indoors. and us kids were brought the community together outside, and talking.

Chic Mommy said...

wow. great post as usual. I refuse to watch Fox news, it is the most biased station on television.

My pregnant cousin and her husband died on September 11th. They were stuck in the stairwell of the second tower, and last we heard, the security on the intercom inside was telling people "go back to your offices, everything is under control" so we thought maybe they would get out soon. But then the towers fell, and we knew they were dead instantly. What made it more sad was that she and I were pregnant for the first time that day, but she never made it and neither did her unborn child or her husband. And she was a Pakistani Muslim, that attack took many Muslim lives as well, people don't always remember that.

Aisha said...

Chic, I am so sorry to hear that about your cousin and her husband, and the unborn baby. That makes my heart ache. I've heard of so many couples dying in the WTC. How awful for the grieving parents and family as they have to deal with both the grief of losing their children and the event itself, but also seeing themselves as the obect of hatred when they are suffering more than most of the people who are blanketly hating when nothing of their was lost.

I am so sorry to hear.

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