SBS 301 Cultural Diversity/Prof. Koptiuch         Fall 2012       Personal Memory Ethnographies

Christopher Iskander

A Middle Eastern Ripple Effect

The twin towers suddenly burst into flames and melt to the ground collapsing and killing thousands of Americans. New York is busy and filled with chaos, debris, and firefighters, injured dead Americans. George W. Bush speaks out and addresses the nation through CNN saying, “The search is underway for those who are behind these evil acts. “As the two planes struck the twin towers: I noticed a feel of shocking sadness for all those people inside the plane and building. Watching it on the news continuously over again, made it worse to imagine every single time. Turning my television off, I went to my room to think and pray for those who have lost their lives on September 11th.

During those fall September days in Phoenix Arizona; I remember my middle schools’ rectangular lunchroom. I was eating the delicious warm pizza during the lunch break around the hour of 12 0’ clock; sniffing a strong aroma of different foods. Valley Academy Middle School had a unique set structure for the lunch period. Every grade level had lunch at the exact same time and sat according to their grade level. During lunch period, conversations roamed around the room. The conversations would seek between gossiping, to providing inside jokes among us. I was known as the funny class clown that people loved to hang around with. However September 11th 2001 changed the way my classmates looked at me as a human being. People quickly judged me to be a terrorist and a Muslim, and frowned upon me. Name-calling was emotional to me at first, and then I became used to it because of how often it was done. I became known as the: “terrorist”, “camel Jockey”, “Sandbag”, “Muslim”, “Afghani”, “Arab”, and “Middle Easterner”. All these names hurt a lot and I emotionally broke down because it is the exact opposite of who and what I am. Who I am and my race should be none of people’s business; it got to the point that I had to prove and provide people the truth of who I am and what I stand for.

I wanted to escape the hot temperatures of Phoenix, Arizona, and run back to the wonderful place where I was born, San Jose California. I watched a slow motion of other students laughing and conversing at their designated tables while sitting inside the rectangular lunchroom. Unlike the other happy students, I felt intensely angered, sweaty, emotionally broken down, by what the other children said to me. Why these peers joked around the way they did is not what made me upset. The anxiety was because people were making false accusations, which overtook my identity. They felt the need to make these accusations based off of judging certain characteristics about me. I was perceived as a Middle Easterner because of my darker skin color, facial features, hairy arms, and I spoke a different language. When being viewed this way, students automatically categorized me with the same Middle Eastern Terrorists that they saw on the Media. This would ruin my day because I was being judged and looked at as the same type of terrorists that killed thousands. I remember having the depressing talk with my family about what was going on at school, work, and with friends; this was tough for me. No matter what I said and did to stand up for myself, people never took it seriously. This led to a huge conflict in my life because people began to avoid me, talk to me less, and embarrass me by name-calling. Even my friends did not stick up for me.

As the two planes struck the twin towers, I noticed a feel of shocking sadness for all those people inside the plane and buildings located in New York City. Watching this horrible tragedy on the Arizona news channels, I went to school confused to why this has happened on United States soil. This shocking disaster was the talk for the next few weeks at school and especially during lunch. I noticed my Middle Eastern friend Christopher getting picked as if he was the cause of the loss of thousands of that day. I knew however that he was not of the same Middle Easterners that struck the World Trade Centers. Although Christopher carried the same characteristics as the terrorists seen on television, he was completely different when it came to his ethnic background. Students would joke around calling him names such as: Muslim, Terrorist, and Middle Eastern. What many students do not realize is that Christopher is Assyrian and has the religious values carried by the Catholic faith; which is completely different than the Muslim terrorists witnessed on the television. I am guilty for not sticking up for Christopher because I felt if I did so then I too would be picked on.

This chapter in my life was extremely depressing and it still is to me sometimes in my everyday life. I never thought in my life I would be looked at as “different”, and now must live my life adjusting to how people look at me. I am ashamed because I sometimes feel that I have to lie and say that I am Italian because I know that if I say that I am Middle Eastern and Assyrian, people will automatically assume that I am a Muslim terrorist. Afraid of losing friends and people acting differently towards me, I too am not my original self that I used to be. Over time, the jokes have lessened and people do not judging me as much, however at times I do get jokes about me “blowing things up”. My life changed from the moment those two planes struck the World Trade Centers in New York City on September 11th, 2001, as did the lives of many others.

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