It was a normal Tuesday morning. I got to work and logged in to my laptop. Ping. Ping. Ping. My IM window blinked. I opened it and saw a co-worker who was working from home had the following message for me:
A plane just hit one of the twin towers!!!!!!!!!
He was the office prankster. My reaction was "Yeah right!" It was around 9:00. Couple of minutes later, again ping,ping, ping! This time the message was scary.
"Oh my God!!!!!!!!!!!!! Another plane just hit the other tower. I'm watching it live on CNN!!!!!!!!"
That really got my scared. I tried to go over to the CNN website and it was not loading. People started talking around us. My manager showed up. "Hey, did you guys hear the news? We are going over to Sears across the street."
We all went. Sears had all their TVs tuned to CNN and we watched in horror the events of the day unfolding. As the towers collapsed in front of our eyes, I was sure my friend who worked at 7 World Trade Center was gone. We couldn't stop watching, we couldn't peel our eyes away from the TV - this unimaginable horror. Who was responsible? How can someone kill innocent people just like that? How deep does your hatred need to be to go down to this level?
I went home at some point and stayed in front of the tv all night watching rescue efforts and news. As the words came pouring "Osama Bin Laden", "Al Qaeda" - I was terrified. I am a Muslim. What's going to happen to the Muslims in US now?! I took the next day off, again wrapping myself in a blanket, stayed in front of the TV and watched news. I cried for all the people that lost their lives, for the fire-fighters and rescuers who died trying to save complete strangers.
The following day, I went to work with a lot of shame on my shoulder. I felt responsible. I am sure all decent Muslims around the world felt the same. I came to US with not a penny to my name. People here have embraced me with open arms, the country has given me opportunities to get a college degree, to get a decent job. In return, my people have destroyed normal life in US. I knew life was never going to be the same in US. At the same time, I heard from people around me, who assured me that they don't consider me an outsider, that they know I am personally not responsible. Friends wrote emails to me, co-workers left notes, chocolates for me on my desk. In the middle of all this destruction, the beauty of human nature shined the brightest and restored my faith in humanity.