On September 11th of 2001, I was in 4th grade with Ms L. It was just like any other 4th grade day: math was boring and so was everything else we did. Something happened on this day, and it took me years to make peace with it. Now every year on this day, there is a “Moment of Silence.” This moment is never for kids like me, though, because many people don’t know what life became for Muslims after this day; as Muslims living in America, we are the forgotten ones.
Hopefully with these 7 life experiences, I will give you a glimpse into the life of Muslims in a post-9/11 world.
Moment 1: My best friend telling me we can no longer be friends.
I remember standing across the street of my house as one of my best friends told me she could no longer hang out with me. I pleaded with the girl I hung out with every single day and told her I had nothing to do with that day nor did my family. “My dad doesn’t care if you didn’t do it, I can’t play with you anymore.” I didn’t understand what I had to do with 9/11, and I knew she didn’t either. I walked away and went home.
Moment 2: New clothes.
At school, I wore American clothing — jeans, t-shirts and sweatshirts. But when I came home from school, I would change into my traditional south Asian clothing like a salwar and kameez. One day, something changed; my mom bought me new “American” clothes and asked me to try them on. Then she told me I could keep them on, and even wear my school clothes at home if I wanted. I didn’t know this then, but I now know that this was my Mom’s way of protecting me. She feared that if my home clothes exposed me as Muslim, someone might harm me.
Moment 3: A few kids from another block approached me.
They knew I was Muslim and had some questions for me. “If we fought, would you help our country or Afghanistan?” I did not even know what Afghanistan was nor why we were fighting but I did know that I was by myself and afraid. I said I would help “our” country even though, in truth, this wasn’t my country anymore. They backed away.
Moment 4: Ignorance.
Those same kids came back later and apologized to me. They said Afghanistan was the “wrong country” and that they were sorry. Well, I am not even from Afghanistan so go fuck yourself.
Moment 5: The thick silence.
One time, when my brother and I were walking home, our friend called us from his porch to come play. Although his mother tried to be discreet, we still heard her stern “No” in objection to her son’s invitation. We knew what this meant, but still didn’t understand it. We were losing all of our friends but we never spent a moment talking about it.
Moment 6: The lying.
Once, when I missed a day of school and my friends asked why, I just told them that I was sick. I did not want to tell them the truth: that I was celebrating Eid, A Muslim holiday. I did not want to remind them or myself that I was a Muslim. There would be many more times I chose to hide who I am.
Moment 7: I was walking home from school when I ran into the mom of a boy in my 7th grade class.
She recognized me and asked how I was doing. I told her I found her son annoying and didn’t like him one bit. When she asked me to explain why, I did not. I didn’t want to tell her that I found him “annoying” because he called me a “terrorist” in music class.
Although September 11th has caused me countless more instances of similar discrimination, I have learned to move past them. My friends were my friends again, and things slowly began to go back to paradise. I no longer let what others think of my culture and religion define who I am. All I ask is that on the next September 11th “Moment of Silence,” you remember Me and my 7 moments.