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.
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Never forget 9/11.