The destruction of the Twin Towers not only left a glaring hole in the New York skyline, but also left an indelible mark on the lives of Americans.
It has been 20 years since the horrific 9/11 tragedy unfolded in the heart of New York City, and yet American expatriate Naiema Zaki, who was only 13 at the time, remembers every scene that took place. ‘is unrolled before his eyes. The destruction of the Twin Towers not only left a glaring hole in the New York skyline, but also left an indelible mark on the lives of Americans.
Recalling the fateful day, Zaki, who now lives in Abu Dhabi with her husband and children, said she remembers this morning vividly as it was the start of a new semester of her 8th grade at the school, which was barely 10 miles from the scene of the New York bombing.
Calling it one of the scariest moments of his life, Zaki said, “It was my first week at this school that I had recently joined. Around 8:30 am, while we were waiting for our teacher to take our class, I happened to see the outside through my classroom window and what I saw seemed “unreal” to me. I could see plumes of smoke surrounding the World Trade Center towers.
“We all thought it was a movie being made because what we saw was incredible as smoke filled the air, casting a gray film over the city’s financial district. Just then our distraught teacher walked into the classroom and told us the horrible news that shook our very existence. We felt that we were under attack and that our lives were in danger.
Zaki said she and her friends were petrified because many of her classmates had relatives who worked near the WTC.
“As young teenagers, something so dramatic happened to us. We always thought we lived in the United States, the strongest country in the world. That is why the tragedy of September 11 was very disturbing. But even as we watched it all in horror, we didn’t know that the worst was yet to come, ”said Zaki, who wore a hijab because of which she was insulted by people in the neighborhood, who kept talking about it. curse saying “your people attacked us, get out of this country”.
“It broke me. We were crying as Americans, there was already a deep sense of grief for our safety as a country, and then to see someone come up to me and say ‘come back to your country’ as the States- United was where I was born and raised, was heartbreaking, ”Zaki said recalling the pain she felt as a young teenager as she faced fear and fear. to the pain induced by the turn of events.
However, Zaki said that this phase was over and things got better after a few years as more and more people realized what the truth was and decided to find out more about Islam. “It was wonderful when people later came to me and apologized and confessed that they still have an incorrect perception of Islam and Muslims, but it is actually such a beautiful religion of peace. “
Another American expat, Natalia, who resides in Dubai, said the day was etched in her mind as a painful memory.
“We all lost something that day. Over 20 years later, I still have trouble talking about it or even viewing pictures. Every September 11, I spend a quiet day of reflection on my own. I was still a young adult in San Francisco about to start college when September 11 shattered the world. It was an event that profoundly changed my life and later led me to work on Iraq. There is still so much pain surrounding this day. It showed me the spirit of the American people, although I remember complete strangers hugging me and I did the same in return.
A mere mention of September 11 brings a series of flashbacks before the eyes of Satierra Hudon, a resident of Abu Dhabi. Hudson, who was a college student at the time, said, “I was sleeping in my dorm at college when someone woke me up to this news. I thought it was just a bad dream and remember sitting down and really concentrating to make sure it was real. As I turned on the TV, I just watched in disbelief and tears roll down my face as my family lived in New York City and worried for their safety. Fortunately, everyone was safe.
Hudson, who has lived in New York for 12 years, said the tragedy initially exacerbated already existing racial tensions but also ignited the best of people as they opened up to a dialogue.
Speaking about his visit to the Twin Tower Memorial, Hudson said: I have only visited Ground Zero once. It’s just gorgeous, aesthetic, and a fitting gesture I guess. But it was emotionally tormented to know the devastation he caused and the lives he took.