It was a balmy, beautiful September morning. Autumn had just set in and the leaves had burst into a blaze of colours…of red and gold.The view outside was truly magnificent.I remember the day,it was 9/11.
While clearing the breakfast table and stealing glances at the ABC’s, ‘Good Morning America’ programme, some images on the TV screen suddenly caught my attention.Initially, I thought it was a Hollywood movie trailer. Could it be another Steven Spielberg’s box office movie? To my horror, it was not! It was breaking news ‘live’ and Diane Sawyer, the co-anchor of ‘Good Morning America’ had just said it,’The US is under attack by Al Qaeda terrorists!’ My jaw fell!
I watched in horror the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre in New York ablazed and crumbling after being hit by an American Airline. Then, within minutes, another airline crashed into the Pentagon and another, crashed in a field in Pennsylvania.
My goodness! What’s happening? I was almost frantic when the news finally sank in.My first thought was of my three kids who were in school then. Will they be safe? My knees felt weak but there was no time for weak wills! The Kilmer School was inundated by phone calls from anxious parents.Thank God, the school bus will send all the kids home immediately. I then called my husband at the Embassy of Malaysia in Washington D.C. As expected, he was oblivious to all else, going about his usual business at the office.I told him to watch the news and that the US is under attack! I repeated the words,under attack! I must have sounded like a lunatic that morning! Who wouldn’t when it was a matter of life and death situation. We are talking about the US, the world’s super power being held ‘hostage’,being attacked! I was duly worried because the Embassy of Malaysia is located just about a kilometre from the Pentagon; That is just too close for comfort!
Soon after 9/11,the Muslims in the US lived in fear.So did I.There was so much mistrust and deep seated hatred towards the Muslims.I did not leave the house for several days for fear of my life.However, life has to go on.I cannot go into hiding for too long.I plucked up enough courage and put on a disguise.I wore jeans and a long sleeved T-shirt,a hat to cover my hair and a muffler around my neck,so as not to give myself away as a Muslim woman; That did the trick and yes,I survived!
Sadly, our female students in the US were not so lucky. They were harassed, intimidated and assaulted in campus. My kids’ weekend Islamic school at the Dar Al Hijrah Mosque was attacked and had to be closed for several weeks.Some Americans were emotional and vindictive. Several Egyptian Americans who were thought to be Muslims were tragically killed. President George W. Bush had to go to the Islamic Centre/Mosque in Washington D.C. to assure American Muslims of their safety.He also appealed to the Americans to be rational and not to attack or victimise the innocent Muslims. His televised speech had helped soothe some raw nerves among the general population.
Since 9/11,the US government had beefed up measures to ensure security for their citizens.
JMJ: It was one experience which I will never forget.