Nation under attack takes toll on our humanity

Maliha Jafri

As a junior in high school, I remember the morning of Sept. 11 vividly. The sky was gray like it had been raining and the ?sun was not quite out. I was on my way to my zero period photography class. As usual, I was late. My father was gulping down his morning tea before it got cold as he listened to KNX 1070 radio. In order to avoid conversation, I looked out my window, hoping that the sun would come out and bring a better day. That is when we heard it.

“The nation is under attack? The Twin Towers have collapsed in a terrorist attack?” My father turned up the radio and slowed down the car as he strained to listen to the announcer. At first I did not quite understand what happened but then it clicked.? “Oh my God! We have been attacked!”

As I was getting out of the car to go to class, my father stopped for a moment. He said, “Be careful today.” He told me that I would probably hear anti-Muslim prejudice from people and that I should ignore it. He told me to keep quiet and if I had any problems, to call home right away. I looked at him and confidently told him that there was nothing to worry about. I told him the people at my high school were decent, good-hearted and educated people like you and I who would not go around pointing fingers at me because of my religion.

My father looked at me with concern as his forehead scrunched up and eyes grew small. He told me to follow his directions and that he wished that I were right for my sake. I rolled my eyes and walked toward my class as my father drove away. Little did I know how wrong I was that morning. Sept.11, 2001 was the beginning of the rest of my life.

I walked into my blue and white bungalow classroom, where the teacher, had already set up a television newscast showing the towers collapse as the planes hit. I sunk into my seat as my eyes glued to the screen. The teacher took roll and announced that there would be no lecture. He told us that we could work on our projects or watch the news. A handful of people got up to continue their everyday work while the majority of the class stayed in their seats and chatted quietly about the eventful morning.

Fifteen minutes later, when I thought I had heard enough, I stopped watching the news and turned to the group of students that shared my table. Joe Shmoe, who had fair skin, brown eyes, dirty blond hair and was also one of the best photographers in the class, was talking about “them.” As I listened to him talk to our table I realized that my father was right. Shmoe was saying phrases and terms in ignorance such as “fuckin’ Muslims terrorists? sand niggers? Palestinians. ” Then to my surprise he turned to me and “Wait a minute, where are you from? Aren’t you Islam or something? Why are you doing this? How can you sit here like this when you have just killed so many of my people? ?”

I was so shocked to hear his false accusations that I stared at him speechlessly. He was so angry with me and I did not even say a word. He said that I did this? I killed those innocent people? How could my classmate, with whom I been in school with for the last three years, say such horrible things? Earlier hadn’t I defended these students to my father? I should have corrected Shmoe right then and there, telling him that Islam is the name of the religion and Muslims are what the people are called, that I’m not Palestinian but Pakistani, that it is not I who am responsible for this chaos and that I, too, am upset. For the first time in my life, I was afraid to say my geographic background and my religion. I was afraid of the angry people whom I encountered like Shmoe who had so much hate built up inside. Sept. 11 did not just destroy the Twin Towers. It took us, humanity, down as well.