I had just finished teaching a class of Introductory Programming, and was on my way to meet my professor, and then head to work, when a student ran up to me, breathless.
"Have you heard the news?"
I could not believe what I was hearing. Frantically I ran to the TA's office and logged on to CNN's website.
It was down. I tried BBC. Down as well. It was at that moment when someone informed me the students council had set up a TV in the Meeting Place. I rushed down the stairs, along with half the students, some still groggy due to the early morning hours. The TV was set to CNN.
The hushed voices witnessing the carnage on screen gave way to huge audible gasps as the World Trade Centre towers started to collapse. It was at the moment I realized that my cousin's husband worked in one of the towers.
I called home, where my folks having heard the news were desperately calling New York. We had lots of friends in New York. Some we could get in touch with, others we couldn't. Busy signals only added to the worry.
All day long we were in shock. During lunch break, I remember going for a walk. For the first time since coming to Canada, I felt like an outsider. The looks, the sharp intake when we approached, the sniggers, all came to the surface. I kept checking for the familiar site of the CN tower every few minutes, praying that nothing touched my city. For the first time as I rode the subway home I was on tenderhooks, waiting for some racist skinhead to jump at me with a knife. My sister wears hijab, so I was in frequent contact with her. On reaching home, we got word from our cousin that her husband was safe - he was on his way to work when the second plane had struck.
In the days that followed I remember vaguely the state of fear and paranoa we all seemed to be under. Anthrax attacks, shutdowns of the parliament, emergency meetings, security certificates, and finally - war.
Lest we forget, nearly three thousand innocents lost their lives on that day, innocents who need not have died but whose sole crime was reporting for work. They included a Bangladeshi couple. From Rezwan's blog:
Nurul Haq Miah and Shakila Yasmin was a Bangladeshi Muslim couple who used to work in the world trade center and was among the unfortunate ones. Nurul was in the 99th floor, attending a meeting when the 1st plane hit their office. Nurul used to work for Marsh & McLennan for about 15 years. Shakila's office was located in the 97th floor, just below. Shakila just started about one year ago six months after they got married on April 2, 2000 [more info].They could have been your friends, relatives or neighbours.
USA honored them this year by renaming the southeast corner of the 3rd Avenue and Ovington Avenue of Ney York after Shakila Yasmin and Nurul Haque Miah, two Bangladeshi victims of the 9/11.
On that day, we were all Americans. Since that day, we have had Bali, Riyadh, Madrid, London, Egypt, Jordan, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq (on going) and so on. Most of the victims of terrorism since that day had been Muslims. I hope the world is successful in destroying the scourge that is terrorism. That would be ideal way to honour the victims.