I was raised without a religion. My father and stepmother never really talked about God, or Jesus, or the Old Testament. They didn’t talk about Jerusalem or even Vishnu. Throughout my childhood, they mostly just stayed quiet on the subject. Raised in Georgia, though, this doesn’t mean that I was exempt from the culture that surrounds the so-called “Bible Belt”.

This city is strong. Its strength has been tested time and time again. And though I was not residing here during that fateful day 14 years ago, Manhattan has accepted me with open arms and I’ve managed to succeed more than I once thought was possible.

When my parents moved here after the civil war back home, they settled in an area packed with other immigrants from the Philippines, Mexico, Thailand, Iraq, and other East African countries. I never felt like I was an oddity until we moved to a suburb where immigrants like us were far and few in between.