The morning of
September 11th 2001
was not much different than any other mornings. I sat in my car; of
course I hadn’t turned on the radio yet! Sometimes I wish I was able to
stop it all by simply not turning on the radio, but unfortunately life is
not as simple as it seems. Subconsciously, I didn’t want to turn on the
radio but I am a news junky. I can’t stay away from it. NPR (NATIONAL
PUBLIC RADIO), it takes me places I never been before, without even
leaving my car. However, I don’t know if I want to go where this radio was
about to take me that day!
Growing up over
the years in different parts of the world, and starting over from zero
every time, has become part of my life. I was only sixteen when I left
Afghanistan for an unknown land, Pakistan. For a sixteen year old, whose
world did not exceed beyond a few miles this was a complete uncertainty.
After spending four harsh years, I along with my entire family was able to
make our way to the United States of America, the land of opportunity in
THE GOLDEN STATE of California. I thought this would be my last stop. This
would be where all of my dreams would come true. After all, I was only
twenty years old; a lot can be done at this age. Like many immigrants, my
first “American” job was at the gas station while attending school. The
“American dream”, I was determined to make it happen.
Now I am only
twenty-nine and still struggling to make my mark. That’s not too old in
this country. This is the time when my desire to fly becomes profound. I
want to fly airplanes. I remember when I was only eight years old, I would
came up with a good excuse to sneak out of the house and take the bus to
the Kabul Airport in order to watch airplanes takeoff and land. What an
experience that was! It made me feel as if I was actually flying the
After a very
short time, it was time for me to make my grand decision and after a few
long months of preparation, I was on my way to the south central part of
the United States, Tulsa, Oklahoma. I started my training with a lot of
hard work and determination. First, I earned my private license, which
followed by instrument rating and then by commercial license. I felt
somewhat relieved and thought I was about to make my “American dream” come
true, I think!
precious years of my life, I still hold a very uncertain future. But I am
only thirty-three years old I will go ahead and get my flight instructor’s
license and follow in the footsteps of my fellow pilots. I will keep
trying and some day I will fly the big bird. Some day indeed!
Now I am only
thirty-four years old and happily married with a child. I don’t think it’s
that old! So, do I really want to turn on that radio? I am still debating
whether I should turn on the radio or not. I know exactly the fear and the
horror which will follow. I am too smart for this. I am not turning on the
radio. I have seen it all, dead people, distraction, confusion and hate. I
don’t want to deal with it all over again. This is going to be too real.
A reality so bold and clear and which I have seen and experienced before.
A reality, which I know, is not pretty. Yet a reality which I don’t know
why I am experiencing again and again!
Now I am seeing
soldiers everywhere, mostly at the airports. It looks like home. I think
it is a good thing because it makes us all somewhat safe. Now a day,
whenever I drive to work, or if I’m at work, I feel like I am being
watched. I don’t mind the attention but when I look at myself, I’m just
an average looking person, five feet eight inches, and one hundred and
sixty-five pounds. That’s as average as it gets. I don’t think it’s about
my looks. I turn around and look behind me, but again I don’t see anything
or anyone that strange. Then I look down my shirt to see if have a bad
stain on my shirt, but I don’t see anything.
military personnel, vehicles and police everywhere, the shopping centers,
big malls, schools and the post offices. Yesterday in the morning, my
boss called me to her office and asked me really odd questions, like
whether I’m looking for a new job or do I want a long vacation. I
replied: “I am really happy with what I am doing. I don’t think I want a
new job. I am a forty years old person; I don’t think I want to get a new
job. Plus this is the only thing I know how to do.” Then she changed her
tone and with a more serious look on her face, said: “look I said I have
no use for you. Did you get that?” “No use for me?” I said. “I’m not an
object. Why are you using the word use?” “You are less then that”, she
said. “Look at what you have done to this country!” “What have I done to
this country?” I said. “I’m a good citizen.” “Leave right now”, she said.
So I left.
Now forty years
old, with a wife and a child, I am distraught. My son asks me so many
questions for which I have absolutely no answers. “Why do they hate us so
much dad?” I have no answers, which will make sense to him. Answers,
which I can’t fully comprehend myself.
“I think they
are going to send us to
I tell him. “I heard they built us new house there. They will feed us
twice a day. Isn’t that great son?" In his mind moving sounds adventurous.
He is only six. He looks at me and expects me to give him some sign of
assurance. I turned my head and with a smile tell him “it is going to be
alright- it is going to be okay!”
is whomever voluntarily turns themselves in, will be treated somewhat with
dignity. If captured, however, they will have to deal with the authority
and the consequences will be harsh. I am a man of dignity. I don’t want to
be humiliated more than I already have been. I always do the right thing.
So I register my family. Soon that afternoon, we were hauled to an open
top truck, with only a few belongings allowed. I turned around and took a
last look at freedom. It brought tears to my eyes. I wonder what is going
to happen to us especially to my only child who is so young. Again
uncertainty clouds over my head and I ask myself what happened to our
civil liberties. “I have a dream” I don’t know if you would have wanted to
live to see this day, Dr. King?”
As we arrive to
Arizona, from a distance, I see warehouse looking buildings, which look
like old army training bases. There is a fence around it and barb wires
on the top of the fence. At the gate, a long line of people is waiting.
They are given a very distinct type of clothing, which separate the camp
residence from the outside populations. As we enter the building, we are
each given a blanket and directed towards the crowd. There are hundreds
of people on the floor in the building. Everywhere I see sick people, who
are barely able to walk. It reminds me of the holocaust movies, the
concentration camps of the Jews, Bosnians and Japanese. This opens a new
chapter in my life. I see men working outside breaking large pieces of
rocks to small piece of gravel. I see large piles of gravel everywhere
and wonder what use might there be for so much gravel. I along with others
have been assigned to a sixteen-hour shift. I humbly pick up my hammer
and start crushing.
It has been a
year and the news surrounds the camp that family members might be
separated from each other because it slows down the work progress. I
wonder what they are going to do with the large piles of gravel that has
not been removed from the previous year. But I’m only following
Now my wife
and son have been separated from me and sent to a different camp. I have
not heard from them in months. Years pass, still no news. Their memories
keep me hopeful. I have hope that I will see them some day.
Now I am
seventy years old and every time I go to sleep I am certain I will see my
family again. I hope to wake up tomorrow and hear any news about my
family. But I feel so ill. I don’t know if I’ll even wake up tomorrow.
Hope such a beautiful word, remains only a word for me. This is when I
look at my watch and realize that I’m late for work. I turn off the radio
and leave. Thank god it was only a thought………
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