Archive for Thursday, September 16, 2004

9-11 united all who know compassion

September 16, 2004

This past weekend celebrated the third anniversary of the events of Sept. 11, 2001. Next to the turn of the century, I think that was the most historic event we have witnessed. Unlike the Y2K bug, which is mostly forgotten, this event, now known commonly as 9-11, will forever remain ingrained in our memory and lives.
I was just about to pull up to my work when the radio announcers candidly joked that someone crashed into the towers. Minutes later, as I was about to get out of my car, the second plane had crashed. Within moments of entering my office, everyone was abuzz about what had happened.
I don't have to recount the event, as I believe they are as fresh in your mind as they are in mine. As my work place came to a standstill, even prompting some offices to close early, I tried to make sense of the people who did the unthinkable.
I am very familiar with the Islamic religion, as I grew up in an Islamic country. But never had I seen such acts of terrorism or teachings that would lead to such acts of horror. I loved the country I grew up in and am thankful for my life there. I am also glad that it was not a country where the hard-core fundamentalist Islamic religion was practiced. There is a religious tolerance and knowing that made it hard for me to accept what happened on 9-11.
The evening of the attacks, I was at a prayer meeting and much to my surprise, I broke down as my emotions took the best of me. Here I was, a foreigner in a foreign land, and I was deeply affected even though it was not my country. I was shedding tears for the cruelty and the horror that had affected innocent lives. I was moved by the acts of heroism performed by the foreign firemen.
I don't sing the Star Spangled Banner nor do I place my hand over my chest when it's rendered, as I am not a citizen, but that day I shed tears for this nation. I'm willing to bet that for most people the initial emotion was that of sorrow, sympathy and concern for those affected by the tragedy. As human beings, that probably was the appropriate response.
Unfortunately, that has given way to fear and anger toward certain groups of people, none more evident than at the airports across the United States.
I have lived in this country for about 20 years now, and I have enjoyed the opportunity and the lifestyle it has given me. I got my education here, met my wife, got work, and my kids were all born here. Even though I am a "foreigner" by my passport, I am as much American as most people here. The events of 9-11 conjured the same pain and emotions experienced by most Americans. I felt like my "home" was invaded; the place that had given me so much was under attack. It was terrifying.
The Islamic religion I knew and grew up with, displayed an ugly side that I had not seen before. Soon we learned that it was not the religion, but a small group of cowards who had no regard for human life, led by an even more cowardly man that was responsible for the attacks.
The acts of these cowards have changed how some "foreigners" are looked upon in the United States and it's very evident at the airports. Most of them are now perceived with a certain amount of suspicion and a degree of threat. When I traveled back home this past Christmas, it was demoralizing to see the eyes and minds of some people trying to determine if I was a threat. The security guards, albeit doing their jobs, sometimes were not pleasant.
Upon entering the plane, I could tell some of the minds trying to determine the "nature" of my trip. None of them knew that I shed as much tears as they did on 9-11. They will never know the hurt and pain I felt for the human lives that were snatched by cowards who just happened to be from my side of the world.
They will never know that two people from my country also died in the towers. It's hard to know what is in a man when stereotypes are already formed in one's mind.
The good thing is that I feel this stereotype is mainly evident at the airports. As long as I have lived in Eudora, I have never felt any suspicion or threat, and everywhere I have been, I have felt accepted and welcomed. Despite the low number of minorities in this city, the tolerance of one another is high. I have often joked with my friends that I add "color" to this place and still stand by it.
Despite the "fear of terrorism" that exists in this country, I am naÃive enough to believe that the tallest building in Eudora would not be hit by a plane nor City Hall be the subject of a bomb threat. I'm also naÃive enough to believe that the kids in Eudora schools are as colorblind as my kids are.
Most of all, I am naÃive enough to believe that the people in Eudora have not succumbed to the fear and hatred that can be permeated with ignorance, but see beyond just the appearance of an individual and seek to find what is within them.

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