Where Were You?

Ten years ago today, I was just days into the school year — I was in the eighth grade.

I knew something was wrong right away because over and over again the classroom intercom would go off from the main office calling yet another student down. Slowly, but surely many of my fellow classmates were being picked up by their parents early from school. Not only was it early in the school day, but it was literally a few days into the school year.

School faculty/administration would not explain why, no matter how many students asked. To protect us? I don’t know.

I don’t remember from who, but I remember over hearing someone talking about an “emergency” in “downtown” “Manhattan” involving the “World Trade Center”.

I remember lividly — lumps formed in my throat and tears started forming in my eyes as I quickly went up to my teacher and told my teacher I needed to go down to the main office and call home. I needed to make sure my dad was okay.

He too, like MANY others used the train to get to work in Manhattan every day. His stop was the station in the lower level of the World Trade Center.

I, too, was picked up early from school. On the drive home, I could see the smoke even in Central New Jersey looming in the sky.

In a time before cell phones were so common that even elementary school-ers carry it around (like now), not many people had the luxury of having one. It just wasn’t deemed to be a necessity as it is now. That meant getting in contact with your family and friends that day was a challenge in itself.

My dad, luckily, got in contact with my mom quickly and let her know he was fine. He had just gotten off the train and left the building and he “heard the noise”, but didn’t see as the first tower was hit.

It took him hours to get home that day because the city was literally shut down, but all that mattered was that he was fine.

Blessed? You bet. Grateful? More than I could ever explain.

In the hours and days ahead, glued to the TV and questioning “WHY?”, I would learn how massive that day was… how many innocent lives were unjustly taken away that day.

As a young Muslim girl who had just started wearing the hijab just a few days prior (on the first day of school), I had no idea how the community would react hearing about all the backlash against Muslims and hate crimes in the days ahead. Fortunately, we live in a very diverse community, and I didn’t have any problems.

Even so, being a Muslim has been a double edge-sword at times. It’s just so easy to lump a whole group and pin the “blame” on them. But do we blame all Germans for the Holocaust? No. You know why? Because we know it’s not true. An individual’s action or a group of individual’s actions can’t be attributed to a whole group of people.

It’s taken me ten years to write down my “Where were you when it happened” story, but you know…  it’s not something I’d ever forget.

It’s a day of reflection and counting your blessings. It’s a day to remember all of the innocent lives lost that day. It’s a day that we lost the feeling of comfort and peace. It’s a day that changed how we lived forever.

Oh what I’d do to go back to the mindset of September 10, 2001. Being so young at the time, I honestly don’t remember the care-free life before.

P.S. Don’t forget to leave me a comment below on your thoughts! As always, I’d love to hear from you.

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