September 11, 2001: only six years old yet overcome with fear, anguish, despair.
2005, I am only 10 years old but veraciously alert to hatred, angst and terror. Now, at age 20, it has become strikingly clear to me that the attitude in New York City has become one of abhorrence; a poignant reminder that the terrorist attacks that have been thrust upon our city have left behind the fear of an entire culture.
Growing up in a small town in Brooklyn, New York, terrorism had seemed much like an empty threat to me. Both my father and my grandfather were employed at Building Six of the World Trade Center, located adjacent from the North Tower of the Twin Towers.
My grandfather was Chief Engineer of Building Six, and on the morning of Sept. 11, both he and my father set off to work along with thousands of other unexpecting New Yorkers.
That morning, my grandfather was responsible for helping to evacuate over 800 workers from his building within 12 minutes of the first plane striking the North Tower. Many of his crew disappeared amongst the rubble, and men I had spent my early years admiring disappeared in smoke.
In the days following the attack, I quickly realized how blessed I was to have had both my father and grandfather survive the horror that was 9/11. Yet my small Brooklyn city, filled with firefighters and policemen alike, was shaken, losing many in the community. I watched with horror as the attitude in my city shifted from that of fear to one of hatred toward the Muslim community.
As I grew older, I daily boarded New York City public transportation to get back and forth from school. Stepping foot onto a train platform, I could feel a definite shift in the atmosphere if a woman in a hijab, or a man wearing a turban arrived on the platform as well.
“If you see something, say something” – a preventative measure against bomb threats, a slogan regularly warning against baggage left behind on the train car. “If you see something, say something” – a warning flashed as all eyes in the train car shifted towards the Muslim on the train.
NYC, a city molded by a plethora of religions, a safe-haven for different ethnicities, a melting pot. My city has attempted to remove Muslims from this equation, berating their culture and shaming them for trying to peacefully practice their religion.
As a New Yorker, I understand firsthand the fear associated with terrorist attacks. My heart aches for those currently under attack, living in constant doubt and always looking over their shoulders.
However, as a human, I do not understand Islamophobia. I do not condone the blaming of an entire culture, for the horrific acts of a few.
It is crucial to understand that any idea taken to an extreme, led by a violent leader, will result in sickening outcomes. The Muslim people as a whole were not responsible for 9/11, and do not represent the ideas of ISIS.
As a New Yorker, I stand alongside all victims of terror. I stand alongside those prejudiced against. I stand alongside the Muslim community.