The morning of September 11, 2001 will always be etched in my memory. I remember the whispers of the teachers as they left their rooms to listen to the radio. I remember all of my classmates being picked up by their parents, each disappearing one by one. I remember my mom crying because my dad worked in downtown Manhattan and she couldn’t get in touch with him. I remember my dad telling me that he and his coworkers saw the second plane hit from their office window; I remember trying to imagine what he must have felt that day. But I couldn’t.
About 3000 innocent people died that day. Among them were heroes who knew they were walking to their deaths, and kept on walking. Today, I remember the victims of the 9/11.
Among them, I remember the forgotten victims of 9/11.
The horrific 9/11 tragedy did not end on that September morning in 2001. It did not end when all of the families found out if their loved ones were still alive. It did not end on May 2, 2011, when a team of US Navy SEALs found and killed Osama Bin Laden. No, the violence did not end there. The hatred did not end there.
Just four days after the attacks, a man in a pick-up truck pulled up to a gas station, pulled out a gun, and shot a man five times at point blank range in what seemed to be a safe suburb in Arizona.
The victim, Balbir Singh Sodhi, was an immigrant from India. He was a Sikh. Little did he know that more than 800 victims would follow him. And they would all be targeted for the color of their skin, or for their long beards, or for the turbans on their heads. Today, I remember those 800 people as victims of 9/11. No, they were not killed on that September morning in 2001. But their deaths were a result of the hatred and the ignorance that followed.
Today I remember the life of Avtar Singh, a Sikh truck driver that was shot and told to “Go back to where [he belonged].” Today I remember Rajinder Singh Khalsa, a Sikh man who was severely beaten unconscious outside a Queens restaurant, leaving him partially blind. Today, I remember the lives of the three Sikh cab drivers that were shot to death. Today I remember the life of an elderly Sikh man who was stabbed in the neck with a steak knife in front of his two-year-old granddaughter because some man “wanted to kill a Taliban.” Today, I remember the life of the Sikh man whose body was found floating in a canal. Today I remember the three-year-old Sikh girl who had a gasoline bomb thrown at her head through a window in her home. Today I remember the life of a Sikh woman who was attacked with a knife by men shouting, “this is what you get for what you’ve done to us.” Today, I remember all the victims of the hate crimes against innocent Sikhs that started after 9/11. There are many more stories like these.
More than 800 of them. More than 800 innocent people were attacked because they “looked like terrorists”. And the unfortunate thing is, these hate crimes are still continuing today.
In March of this year, two elderly Sikh men were gunned down in California.
The 9/11 tragedy did not end on that September day in 2001, nor did it end a week later, nor a month later. No, the tragedy is still continuing today.
So today, a moment of silence for the victims of 9/11. I pray for the families that lost their loved ones. I pray that this tragedy ends. I pray for peace. God Bless.