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Sayema Hameed

Story Transcripts /
 
  + 12/7/41 and 9/11/01 : “My mom was crying”
+ Aftermath : “This was going to affect me”
+ Anger : “We should just go take ‘em out”
+ FBI Investigation : “They checked his whole background”
+ Fear : “I felt fear for the first time in my life”
+ Identity : “It doesn’t matter that I grew up here”
+ Never Again : “Stop ignoring the rest of the world”
 
   
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12/7/41 and 9/11/01
“My mom was crying”
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I was sleeping and received a phone call from my mother and she was terrified basically, I’d never heard her sound like that before. And sort of in a state of shock and she said, “Have you seen the news? Do you see what’s happening?” I said, “What are you talking about?” She said, “I woke up this morning to pray and after praying turned on the TV and saw a plane fly into the World Trade Center.” And I said, “I can’t believe this, what are you talking about?” And I went immediately and turned on the TV and saw both buildings on fire at that point. And I just didn’t understand what was going on, I had no idea. But my mom was crying and just the sight of that horrific scene just made me start to cry as well. And I woke up my roommate and we were both just sort of crying and in total shock.

Aftermath
“This was going to affect me”
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As soon as I turned on the TV and saw this horrific sight of the buildings on fire and then the buildings starting to collapse, the journalists on TV were already saying that Palestinian groups had claimed responsibility or possibly claimed responsibility and this is a possible terrorist attack. So at that moment I knew that Muslims and Arabs were being implicated, whether or not that was based in fact, they were already being assumed to be the culprits. And for that reason alone I knew that this was going to affect me.

Anger
“We should just go take ‘em out”
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There were students who were voicing their anger and their opinions about what had happened and you could hear in people’s voices that the anger that they expressed meant that they just wanted to get revenge right away. And the kind of comments that we would hear included: “We should just go take ’em out.” “We should just go and blow the whole place up.” “Those Middle-Easterners, those Arabs, those people, they don’t know who they messed with, who they’re dealin’ with.” These are the kind of comments that I heard and quite a few people heard and it was very alienating as you can imagine. It was hard to process, it was hard to believe that people would have such gut reactions in such a negative way without giving any thought to why this happened.

FBI Investigation
“They checked his whole background”
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My cousin, he’s a consultant for IBM, and he was in Colorado working with a client when September 11th happened and he was unable to fly home for the next five, six, seven days, I don’t remember how much, that the airports were shut down. When he was finally able to fly home, he was detained by the FBI based on the sound of his name, the foreign sound of his name I guess, or the fact that it sounded Arab or Muslim. They checked his whole background, they got his entire immigration history. They found out where his parents are from and it was just a shocking experience for him to go through, to be targeted based on his appearance and his name alone. And so at this point I knew that that was the new reality that I would have to live with. The fact that being of a certain ethnicity, or not even being of a certain ethnicity, but looking a certain way, having a certain skin color and having a foreign sounding name was enough to make me the enemy, or make me a target for harassment or for people’s anger.

Fear
“I felt fear for the first time in my life”
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The confidence and the forthrightness with which I had led my life up to that point basically shattered in an instant. And I felt fear, real fear for the first time in my life. I didn’t want to drive my car by myself. I didn’t want to go out at night. I didn’t go out at night because I’d heard stories, friends who had been harassed while walking on the street. Who had been called names. Go home. Go back to your country. Or spit upon. Or, even worse, attacked, physically attacked. And so fear for my own physical safety became an issue whereas it had never really been an issue like that before.

Identity
“It doesn’t matter that I grew up here”
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I’m scared on a number of levels. I’m scared for my own physical safety on the one hand. I’m scared for the possible intrusions upon my rights. I’m scared to see where this society is moving. Are we moving towards increased tolerance or are we moving towards divisiveness and hatred and racial demonization, of which I’m going to be the, you know, I’m going to have to deal with that. It doesn’t matter that I grew up here. It doesn’t matter that I was born in the United States. I love being an American, I love living in America. Does that matter when my skin is brown and my name is Sayema and I’m Muslim? It doesn’t matter to them. So that scares me.

Never Again
“Stop ignoring the rest of the world”
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I wish they wouldn’t carry out suicide bombing attacks. I wish they wouldn’t fly planes into buildings. God knows I wish that. But you have to understand the root source of their despair and the fact that they feel that they have nothing left to live for, and the fact that they feel so desperate at this time in their lives that they feel they have no other alternative. So I think we need to start looking beyond the simple quick fix answers and start to address the root causes of the problem. And we need to start addressing those problems and looking inside ourselves and stop ignoring the rest of the world and their suffering.