Ten years ago, I watched the Twin Towers being hit and falling down in lower Manhattan and plane crashes at the Pentagon and in Somerset County. As an Indian-American, what was it like to watch the 9/11 terror attacks live on television?
Where was I when the terrorist attacks happened in the United States? I wasn't in Manhattan, not in New York, but was in Bensalem, PA watching Spongebob Square Pants in the morning. I was getting bored and started flipping through the channels where an image caught my eyes: a tall tower with smoke rolling through the clear blue skies in Manhattan, NY.
News reports were indicating that a plane accident hit one of the Twin Towers at the World Trade Center. At the time, it was just an accident to me. My mind was still wavering around Spongebob's adventures under the sea with Patrick the starfish and Sandy the squirrel. During that time, there was a teacher's strike occurring in my school district that prevented me from going to school. It just didn't make sense to me how a plane can hit the World Trade Center!
I saw camera crews running on the ground trying to capture the horrifying accident. Smoke and fire was increasing as some people were jumping from the North Tower. As much as I can remember, I felt helpless that I could not help the innocent people jumping from the tower and those killed in the plane crash. Debris was falling with smoke trailing behind to the ground as people ran for cover. Most were running, some were jogging, others were walking.
While just watching smoke soaring into the sky, around 9 a.m. I saw a second plane hit the South Tower. Fox News was convering the live report from one of their newstations and it was a shocking moment for me. My eyes widened and jaw dropped to think, "Another plane? How can this be?" A news anchor indicated that this must be a terrorist attack, I thought, "What is a terrorist?" I have heard of that term before but not so often.
Till this day, I can still hear the screams of reporters and innocent civilians crying, "Oh my god," "Another plane just hit," "Oh no!" These were the cries of Americans watching the yellow-orange flames soar into the air as they joined with the smoke from the North Tower.
When the Twin Towers fell, plane crashes occured at the Pentagon and in Schwenksville, Pa., America stopped but time did not. As the old saying goes, time is in a bottle...use it well. I was crying while the last tower was falling and thinking about the people running and killed floor by floor. Grey smoke and debris was flying in all directions. On television, I saw a woman running with a baby stroller and was scared that it might turn over causing physical damage to the baby and emotional to the mother. Mixed emotions of sadness and anger filled my eyes and heart while people run for their lives.
My eyes filled with sympathy for those that perished on the plane crashes, those trying to escape, and running victims of 9/11.
Once the towers fell, dust was all over lower Manhattan. Police officers and EMTs escorting people to safety while covered in dust. I saw people pouring water over their faces while coughing from debris and smoke inside their lungs, still crying and shocked from the horrifying events that occurred. I still didn't understand what was a terrorist but knew that the attacks on the Pentagon and the WTC were terrorist attacks.
The plane crash in Pennsylvania was mentioned repeatedly while live broadcasts in Washington DC and Manhattan were ongoing. It was later explained by my parents about the definition of a terrorist and timeline of 9/11 events in three cities. Although it was somewhat confusing about why attacking America, I knew that the environment around me would look at minorites differently post-9/11.
News spread in my neighborhood in Bensalem that a candle vigil be held in the shopping area. I attended with my friends and family. While our faces were lit with yellow glows of candle flames, I saw tears, sympathy expressions, and few were angry. Those that were angry indicated that the people responsible for 9/11 should be brought to justice as soon as possible. I thought to myself, we don't live in Utopia and will take a while to catch the masterminds that caused the downfall of around 3,000 American civilain lives. Whilst standing among friends and family, we celebrated in our hearts unity and patriotism that America is still standing and moving on from the 9/11 attacks.
In retrospect, why are innocent Arabs and Muslims targeted if they have nothing to do with 9/11? Is it right for one to judge another by their skin color and discrimiante them for suspicions of the responsibility of 9/11? If discrimination occurs against Arabs and Muslims, are the suspects of racism and discrimination any better than the rest of the world? We have a freedom of speech in this country, but there are certain repercussions with those actions.
Remember when we were kids and our parents told us, don't judge a book by its cover? Does this quote have any meaning left if people don't stop hate, discrimination, and racism?
My question to you is, if you saw injustice towards Arabs and Muslims, would you stand up for those that are being oppressed in modern American society or be silent because the situation does not directly involve you?