9/11, The Arab and I: A Reflection

We all can remember where we were on the fateful day of 9/11.

I was in white collared hell inside the Hancock Center.

Alarms went off and we were forced to evacuate into the crowds of Michigan Avenue.

Many were sad but most of us were terribly angry.

I could overhear the conversations:

"Those fucking Arabs."

"They all should die for what they did."

The anger was misplaced as rumors of Al-Qaeda involvment circulated through the bars and along street corners.

As I rode home on the Metra, I was positioned directly across the aisle from a young Arab man.

He sat stiff as a board, focusing straight ahead refusing to make eye contact.

He was disheveled and his white dress shirt was covered in dirty handprints.

Then it happened:

A group of three men got on at the next stop in their loosened ties and rolled up cuffs on their dress shirts.
They smelled of alcohol and were looking for trouble.

They sat in the seat across from the gentleman.

"What the fuck are you looking at, dot head?" one of the men asked angrily.

The Arab man stared straight ahead and refused eye contact.

"I am talking to you, you son of a bitch." the drunkard continued on.

"You muslims are like animals always killing each other in that shithole country you are from."

As I watched from my seat, the tension increased when the Arab man stood up.

He towered over the drunk who quickly shut his mouth.

The Arab man said, "My name is Ibrahim and I am an American and I am Muslim. My brother's name is Ismail and he works in the twin towers. I have been unable to reach him and I am very upset."

With a stone glare, he continued;

"If any of you put your hands on me, I am angry enough to kill you with my bare hands."

And as if nothing was ever said, the tall Arab lowered back into his seat and stared out the window.

The drunk men sobered,found their seats and remained quiet.

All of the passengers sat in silence with our thoughts.

We may have realized at that point that those planes were targeted toward Americans.

The terrorists did not care if they killed Catholics, Jews, Muslims, or Buddhists.

There was no filter on the murder of black, white or brown.

We were all victims.

I have never forgotten that day nor have I forgotten Ibrahim. I prayed that his brother, Ismail, was among the living.

I will never know.

However, I knew that Ibrahim's courage that day made me proud to be an American.

He stood up to adversity and stared it right in the eye and refused to be broken.

Please feel free to leave your comments below and while you are at it, follow me on Twitter @TheRealJoyRene.

Never forget 9/11.

Filed under: Uncategorized

Tags: 9/11, arab, chicago, muslim, twin towers


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  • Joy, thanks for this powerful story.

  • In reply to Julie:

    Thanks for reading,Julie. It means so much.

  • As we all reflect on that horrible day. I choose to remember not the death and destruction, but the way a nation came together. The way neighbors consoled one another. How ALL people of color stood as ONE, if only for a short time to show the world, WE ARE AMERICANS. We will endure. I don't want to dwell on the loss of life. Death surrounds us everyday. Think about how we all could benefit if we could all toss our differences aside and STAND TOGETHER. ALL Americans. All races.

  • In reply to Tony Carbon:

    Thanks for the lovely comment.

  • In reply to Tony Carbon:

    I could see that happening but how many would enhance Arabs during that time? Even American born Arabs felt such hate and mistrust that who would look at them and say my brother!?

  • Wow. This gave me chills. I remember riding home from the loop on a completely packed but very, very quiet red line train. Will keep those brothers in my thoughts.

  • In reply to Shannan Younger:

    Thanks for reading!

  • Not only does this article of yours enhance my thoughts of that moment but to blame every Arab is like when ever someone black commits a crime we are all who are black ate criminals.

    I never hear anything about labeling whites for anything even though they seem to have the ability to comment high level crimes in finance or just plan killing of many at one time.

    It does seem that white America is willing to throw blame on whole races for the one or few I dividuaja that commit crimes, but when it comes to their people commiting horrible crimes it's just that person not the entire race.

    Will we ever get pass this horrible wasted thought no I don't believe so we as minority or any minority only blame those responsible for the offense. whereas the whites blame entire races for any crime commited by one or more individuals.

  • In reply to BullySixChicago:

    I think you're missing the irony in your own post. You're accusing whites of generalizing other races while generalizing all whites.

  • In reply to &mpersand:

    You are so right but when you have control of the
    Media, tv, radio and basically the police I can say that's the opinion I get from the constant statements from white leadership.
    When you hear so many of the media throwing out welfare stats, crime stats, failing black schools and
    now the Hispanics are thrown into the mix and described as what's is wrong with America it all black and Hispanics which are the
    problems in America. Ok
    I admit that I should not Include all in my statement and since you must be white now I know one that thinks different.

  • In reply to BullySixChicago:

    Hey there!
    Thanks for your comments. I always look forward to them.

    We have to always have faith in the goodness of people. Regardless of color, there are people who believe in pure solidarity and refuse to divide the masses.

    I am a person who will accept that some people are assholes and that has nothing to do with color.

    I dislike a black asshole as much as a white one..or brown one.

  • Thanks for the story Joy... Just sad to know that this type of ignorance still persists among people even today. But discrimination and racism will never die. We can only hope for more understanding and enlightened people like yourself to spread throughout this country and the world.

  • In reply to JChris:

    I truly appreciate you. Racism is still a pandemic. To this day, I still endure racial profiling. Now, I am so used to it that it has become my life.

    One day...

  • Amazing - thanks for sharing and for the constant reminder - my favorite story of the day

  • In reply to Corie:

    Thank you so much. I am glad you enjoyed it.

  • great story that signifies unity of all humans against terrorism as well as against prejudice..as an egyptian and muslim who lived in NY few years back in the nineties i remember following the 9-11 attack with sadness and outrage..our spontanious move later that day was to express regrets and condolances to our American friends..thanks for the inspiring and thoughtful report.

  • In reply to maged:

    Thank you for reading. The easiest emotion during 9/11 was anger. Yet when we took the opportunity to look closely at the humanity of our neighbors we see that hate only harms us. It is a disease that grows into racism and intolerance.

    I am glad you enjoyed it

  • Joy, this is a very poignant and touching reminder of our humanity. I would add that they guys on the train are not necessarily "assholes". 9/11 was a very emotional time and some people allowed anger and frustration to rule their behaviors. It sounds like the men on the train learned a valuable lesson. I've come to realize that people who act in despicable ways are usually either afraid, or they are miserable and don't value much the life they are living. Just as heroes come from all walks of life, so do the broken. Thank you for sharing your memory with us.

  • In reply to palehoze:

    Thank you. Yes, I believe we all learned a lesson that day. I am sure those guys will never forget Ibrahim and his courage either.

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    Very touching story... Teaches us to refrain ourselves and be more tolerant to other beings....

  • In reply to Bima Boediman:

    Thank you so much for reading. Please share!

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