When so many lives changed - forever (Ten years after 9/11)September 8th, 2011 - 1:54 pm ICT by IANS
Washington, Sep 8 (IANS) It began as a “clear, beautiful morning” and ended up as the longest day of her life. Rashi Shyam still shudders as she recalls the horror of 9/11.
She is not the only South Asian survivor to do so.
Rashi was with her boss at Lehman Brothers at the World Financial Centre, attached to the World Trade Centre twin towers in New York, that Sep 11 10 years ago “when our entire building shook”.
“We looked outside and saw people running. We had no idea what happened. We thought a small plane had hit the building. They told us not to leave,” Rashi told IANS.
Then started the deluge of telephone calls.
“My mom called me, my husband, my best friends, and they all told me to get out of the building,” said Rashi, who had wed only three weeks earlier.
“I changed my shoes into my sneakers, grabbed my co-worker’s hand, and ran downstairs. It was a war zone outside, with debris and fallen people.
“We waited for the ferry. The ferry worker was actually asking for tickets!
“A man came on the ferry with blood covering his head, and a towel on top. I can never forget his face.
“As we were on the ferry, the twin towers collapsed. Everyone was screaming.
“I cannot even begin to explain the panic and fear in my heart,” said Rashi, who now has two daughters and has started a small business “to keep me busy”.
“Ten years later, I still remember every minute of that day, and every feeling I had. When I watch the TV footage, that awful eerie feeling just rises to the surface again. I still can’t believe I was there, and that all those people lost their lives that day.”
Playwright Rehana Lew Mirza, who has written a play about a South Asian family’s loss after 9/11 and the backlash they endured, remembers going to work from her home on New York’s West 4th and 6th Avenues that had a clear view of the twin towers.
“If I had just looked up I would have known not to leave for work that day. But instead I got on the subway, which kept stopping and stalling,” recalled the daughter of a Pakistani father and a Filipina mother.
Once she realised what had happened, Mirza left the office. “But the subways were no longer running. So I ended up walking home.
“I remember stopping in Times Square to see on the huge screens the news. Just standing with so many other people, dumbstruck.
“And then I started running. On the way home, a woman screamed something to the effect of ‘Foreigners did this!’ and spat at me.
“I didn’t even care. I was so worried and distressed.”
Ten years later, Mirza says: “It’s interesting to look back and see how politicised that day has gotten. The narrative that is written around that day is that this was the day that Muslims became known as evil.
“But in reality, New York is so incredibly diverse with all races and religions. To me, this was the day everyone came together - all religions, races, immigrants and second generations, during a horrible tragedy.”
(Arun Kumar can be contacted at email@example.com)
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Tags: asian family, avenues, backlash, beautiful morning, best friends, co worker, deluge, lehman brothers, lew, longest day, playwright, sep 11, shudders, sneakers, subw, tv footage, twin towers, two daughters, war zone, world trade centre