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 airplane.

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!

 After four 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.

There are 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 Arizona”, 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!”

The arrangement 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 directions.

 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………



Omar Farhad


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