11 September 2001 – It was hell for everyone

11 Sep
New York City – ground zero 2003

I was in Anaheim, California, it was still dark outside as my sister and I were up getting ready to go to high school. This was the first Tuesday in my second week as an Egyptian Muslim American freshman at Cornelia Connelly high school in California, an all-girls private catholic school in Orange County, it was also just my 3rd month of living in America for the first time after moving from Cairo earlier in June of that year.

What a day that literally changed my life like so many others in America and around the world. This was the very first day I realized what my political identity meant as others viewed me or “us”, the Arab/Muslims/Terrorists, or any synonym. What a feeling to be 14 years old curious about new beginnings to have the challenge of living as an Arab American during this time. I got dressed as I watched live on TV the 2nd plane going into the 2nd tower by 6:05 am California time. My family knew this was big, but we must go on and go to school, so my dad dropped me off. We had a school assembly and were immediately sent back home, as news were breaking that flights were still in the air and possibly heading to Los Angeles, schools were canceled, universities closed and everyone was sent home in fear of another attack.

When I got back home, we had dish network Arabic TV, so in one living room I had the local ABC news and in another I was watching Aljazeera and literally, I was trying to understand the world from both sides while I was in the middle dealing with how we are going to live in this country being Arab Muslims after this. My uncle, in an effort to look more patriotic, he went and printed 100s of stickers “united we stand” and passed them around and stuck them everywhere. I didn’t understand what was going on and I knew from that moment on, our lives in the US would be forever different. The FBI was at our house the next day, questioning my father as we lived in an Arab American neighborhood, we were terrified even though, we all were American citizens except my dad who had a valid business visa with all his kids born there. We had nothing to worry about yet still we were terrified and couldn’t fathom how our lives might be faced with similar situations in the future just because we were Muslim Arab Americans.

I was asked by my school to give a presentation on Islam because no body knew why this was happening and why those “Muslim terrorists” hate America? This was their way to “raise awareness” that Islam is not the problem, that it is a peaceful religion. I don’t know why they picked me, but basically I was the only brown Muslim kid in school who just came from Egypt (fun). I had Arab American friends get fired from jobs, get attacked, receive threats, asked to remove their hijab. I mean it was very bad in the early months and years after 9/11. Generally Americans couldn’t understand why and how 911 happened. Books, documentaries, conspiracy theories filled the air, while Bush and Cheney were on a-war-on-terror spree going to Afghanistan and then Iraq, killing and torturing thousands of more people in the name of 9/11 while Arab Americans were getting the other end of the sour stick of discrimination and racist attacks just because they are Muslims and/or Arabs.

We must remember all the people who suffered as a result of these attacks who had nothing to do with it in any way shape or from, it was not just Americans or fallen heroes, but also hundreds of thousands of other people around the world who suffered from these horrific attacks and everything that followed after; two longest wars in American history, nations altered and lives that can never be the same after that dark day in human history.

I can safely say this day in history was the start of my politicization, I knew after my experience because of 911, I wanted to study political science. I visited New York City for the first time in 2003. Below are my pictures of the 911 site taken out of the scrapbook I made after this trip. My sister and I took a stroll looking around where it all happened. It was astonishing that there were still so many memorial sites around the area and people visited everyday for years after it had happened. “We will never forget.” 20 years later and our lives are forever different because of these attacks. The world went on fighting terrorism, going to endless wars, killing 1000s more Americans and hundred of thousands more non-Americans. The failure of the war on terror is the biggest lesson we should learn after 20 years. We must remember and never forget, it was hell for everyone. 

New York City – ground zero 2003

p.s the angry Egyptian name was my nickname in high school, it’s not a coincidence that when i named my blog it was very appropriate to have it as my political voice, it was because of these attacks and whatever followed that I started seeing the world through this lens of a new world order and it just made me angry.

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