To the listener, this may come across as yet another monologue on the 9/11 tragedy. But to me, it offers, at last, a chance to express my experiences and feelings as a foreign student in the aftermath of that tumultuous day. 9/11 did affect my American hosts and they could express their feelings about the events through the media, friends, families, flags, and social organizations. 9/11 also affected a lot of non-Americans residing in America, some of whom could not express their feelings in the same ways. I am one of those unfortunate persons, who wanted to reach out to my fellow Americans, but could not. Yes, I too wanted to shout out loud and express my anger and frustration at the tragedy. However, I could not. Something stopped me, stifled me. Somewhere along the line, the 9/11 tragedy was socially reconstructed as a sorrow meant to be felt and shared only by Americans. Everyone else was a mute, impotent spectator, or worse, a perpetrator.
The first few days after the tragedy were like a haze, where I saw everyone around me trying to make sense of their realties. Not only were people devoid of answers, I hardly came across anyone who even knew the right questions. Life, it seemed, had been caught in a deep freeze, with people looking at each other to determine how they should feel about the happenings. Nevertheless, as time went by, the emotional vacuum left by the two falling towers began to be filled by a strange air of insularity and chauvinism. On several occasions, I strongly felt a need to talk to my fellow Americans and express my support to them and their country. 9/11 to me was a great human tragedy that superseded boundaries and nationalities. However, often, I would find, to my worry, a strange feeling of stinginess on the part of a lot of Americans to “share their sorrow”. I began to wonder if my fellow Americans were beginning to see every “brown” man as a representative of the “enemy”. I remember buying a can of soda at baseball game in Pittsburgh, when the shop owner started talking about Afghanistan, and how he felt sad about all those bombs being dropped in “my” country. I smilingly told him, that I was from India and not Afghanistan, and he muttered something, which essentially meant – they’re all the same.
As time progressed, I finally accepted the flow of things and now, six years since the events, my feelings have subdued. But they have been replaced by a much deeper concern about our common future as mankind. Have we really progressed through the millennia? How are we fundamentally different from our cave-dwelling ancestors? In spite of sending probes to Mars and further beyond, we still have not been able to evolve a global understanding of our common unity as humans. Race, religion, caste, and creed are still the factors that determine peace and unrest on our planet. This I believe.
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