This article is part of a special series exploring our stories as visibly Muslim women in the last two post-9/11 decades.
By Monira Uddin
It seems every generation has a “day” that they will never forget, that is etched in their collective psyche. For mine, it was 9/11. That day was a turning point for any New Yorker, but especially a Muslim woman who wore hijab – like me.
That fateful morning I had a pharmacology exam that was scheduled for two hours at the dental school where I was a student in upstate New York. Obviously we had no contact with the outside world during the exam. We were all in a safe bubble in that room.
I finished it a little early and drove home to my apartment. I turned on the radio but couldn’t find any radio station that was playing any music. Tired, I didn’t even listen to what they were babbling about and shut it off. I enjoyed the beautiful fall weather and headed home, blissfully oblivious.
I got to my apartment and made some breakfast. I turned on the television to watch some morning news shows, and that’s when I finally heard about what happened. First one plane and then another had hit the Twin Towers in New York City. Everyone had thought the first was an accident but knew it was an act of terror with the second.
I desperately tried to call my parents, who lived in the city, but the lines were all busy and jammed. Finally I got through, and they said they were ok but in shock. Grateful (but also still in shock), I turned to the task at hand. I needed to get back to campus, but I was afraid. I didn’t want to be a victim of a racial attack, which was not an unreasonable fear as I later found out. So many Muslim Americans were attacked or abused post 9/11.
Monira Uddin; image source: author
I called my neighbor and classmate, a big dude, to escort me to class. He was more than happy to oblige. I tied up my hair in a cloth and threw a baseball cap over it. I got to school and was still in shock. By that time, everyone was talking about what had happened. The rest of the day was a blur full of conspiracy theories until the news filled in the blanks as to who had committed these heinous crimes.
I went back home to the city and could see the ashes were still burning at the site. It was a hole in our hearts as New Yorkers that will never be replaced. All I had were memories of the fun times at the mall under the Towers or hanging around the area with my friends. I felt guilty for not taking my grandmother to see the Towers, she had always wanted to see them. I always had thought, "I’ll take her next time," but that will never come now.
Slowly over the next few weeks, I started to feel safe but continued to use my male friends for support and safety. I am forever thankful to them. I am also grateful to have witnessed an America that came together, that took care of each other, that looked out for each other. In the immediate days post 9/11, our leaders had taken care not to blame an entire community but to blame the individuals for the crime.
While things have drastically changed since then, I am still hopeful that under the hateful rhetoric that is being spewed in the current climate, there is still an undercurrent of love for the neighbors that don’t look like us or sound like us. That this nation can overcome anything when we are united.
Monira lis a dentist living in Atlanta, Georgia, and you can find her on Instagram @hijabi_mommy.