Going from Passive to Patriotic

Yahoo! is asking Americans how September 11 changed them. Below is an account from a reader.

Waking up at seven in the morning on September 11, 2001, and getting on to my daily routine before I start my hustle, I turn on the Today Show. All I remember seeing was a plane crashing into the towers and thinking that I was watching a movie. I switch to another station and there it is again. I don’t realize what is happening until my second sip of coffee, and then it hits me: this is serious, this is unbelievable and OMG those poor people.

I am not sure if it is safe to go to work. Driving through the downtown streets and passing the Capitol building wondering, “what if”. My paranoia starts creeping in, but I know I have to be brave. I start imagining scenarios where I play the hero. It all turns out great in the end for me, I save the world and get to safety. I work at a hotel and part of me realizes that there’s a lot of Middle Easterners at my work, I wonder how they are feeling, and then I pull in to the parking lot. I walk upstairs to the lobby and every T.V is turned on to the news. I see two white ladies sitting in the stiff chairs and they are giving me the stink eye. I couldn’t get past why they were staring me down. Then I realize, oh yes, I look like the people that started this craziness. It was the first time I felt singled out, I want to scream at two women and tell them, “no, no, you have it wrong, I feel the same way you do, I grew up here and I love this country as much as you do!” I get to my office and just listen to the news station, while pretending to work.

A million thoughts go through my mind, I had never experienced being stared down by people, this was my first time. At the same time my thoughts are with the people of New York and Washington, I also remember that one of my happy hour pals is visiting family in New York. I call to make sure she is ok, but there is no answer. The day goes by in a haze. Later that night my brother calls me and tells me his experience, and surprisingly he received that same stare downs. It is then that I realize that my life won’t be the same.

Since then every family outing that we go to, I am told about the same thing, some one has been harassed, because we are brown, with straight hair, we are some how involved or share the same feelings as those idiots involved in the tragedy. As I walk through the parking lot from our temple, I notice more and more cars with the American Flag. My uncle tells me he has these things all over his cab, so that no one is mistaken of his allegiance, and more to the point it is a deterrent to keep people from harassing him.

I now feel like my voice has to be the loudest when there is talk about 9/11 and that everyone knows that I support my country, “America”. People hesitate to have any conversations with me regarding the Middle East, 9/11 or anything related to this topic, until they are assured that I am not Middle Eastern, and that I am just as patriotic as them. In the last ten years I have sent care packages and donated my time to support our troops, not to prove my patriotism, but to genuinely help the troops get through this difficult time. Every time I feel like complaining about my job, I just think of my cousin stationed in Iraq. I have a greater appreciation for the freedom this country allows me, and I am not afraid to voice it. I never thought that WAR was the answer, but after the tragedy, I am not sure anymore. I believed in personal freedom, but now I don’t mind getting patted down by a hairy, mustached, polyester-wearing dude at the airport.

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