Syed Abbas was 19 years old when he moved to the United States from Pakistan.
He was 38 years old and fully immersed in American culture when the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon occurred on September 11, 2001.
“I was working at home when my wife called and said that a plane crashed in New York. Just as I turned the TV on, the second plane hit and I was shocked. Then I drove to my friend’s house and we watched it together until about noon. At that time nobody knew who was behind it. The whole country just shut down, it was pretty scary. Then later the whole story came out that the hijackers came from Saudi Arabia.”
When I asked him about his family back in Pakistan, he said the reaction there was quite similar to people in the states.
“Everyone knew about it right away and they were shocked too. Some people here think some middle easterners wanted it to happen, but nobody wanted that. They were so sad for how things were being destroyed. They felt the same way as us, thinking the hijackers were bad people. The hijackers gave the Middle East a bad name, even though they have their own separate agenda. After 9/11 almost 45,000 Muslims have been killed in Pakistan by Al-Qaeda. They are still dealing with this terror over there.”
This New York Times article confirms what Abbas says, mentioning that Israelis and Palestinians “also took cold comfort in concluding that Americans would now share more of their fears.”
And this McClatchy DC article also confirms that drones are killing “others” and not just Al-Qaeda leaders in the Pakistani area.
When I asked him about how his life has changed since the tragic event, he was humble and understanding.
“When you’re flying in New York, they usually check where you went if they see you are traveling from a certain country such as Pakistan and make you sit in a specific room. Suspicious countries with a lot of terrorist activity like that are flagged, but after an hour or so you are clear to go. I dread coming and going from there, but I don’t have those issues anywhere else. Even still, my feelings aren’t hurt. I’d rather be safe, and Pakistan does even more profiling then most places, so it doesn’t bother me here.”