9/11

Growing Up in a Post-9/11 World

Author: Elizabeth Zarb, Current Events/Politics

I have lived in New York my entire life. But, I do not remember the Twin Towers.

On September 11th, 2001, I sat in my family room watching Blue’s Clues. I was only two years old. I didn’t see the look of terror on my mom’s face, as she couldn’t get ahold of my dad. I didn’t see the news reports, showing the plane hitting the South Tower.

The youngest millennials, such as those born in 1999, do not remember 9/11. We have absolutely no recollection of life or travel before those awful attacks. We grew up strictly in a post-9/11 society, and it’s something that hasn’t really touched on. 

I had only flown one time before September 11th, and quite obviously I don’t remember it. What’s familiar to me at airports is TSA at every single area, high tech scanners, taking shoes off before allowed through security, random selection, no water bottles allowed, and an all-around uneasy feeling.

Of course, I’ve heard stories about flying before 9/11. And even after hearing them, I can’t fathom not having to take out every single liquid item in my bag, or being allowed through a security checkpoint with my sweater still on. 

Life before 9/11 seems like a foreign concept. For my entire memory, the Empire State Building was the tallest building in New York (now replaced by One World Trade), not the Twin Towers. At the time, I didn’t know about the Pentagon being hit, or that the brave people of Flight 93 were able to prevent another attack by crashing into Shanksville, Pennsylvania. I didn’t know anyone who worked in the World Trade Center, and I thought the “We Will Never Forget” decals on my car windows were just pretty decorations. I was respectful during our moments of silence in school, but I didn’t think much of it.

Despite living through it, September 11th, 2001 feels like another date in my history textbook.

As I grew up, I wanted to learn more about September 11th. I read everything I could get my hands on about that day. I asked my mom questions about where she was, what it was like, and her reaction to the horrific attacks. She told me about how after 9/11, New Yorkers rallied together, and helped each other out whenever needed. And that this tragedy brought the country together, at least for a while. She was always patient with me, with her only request being that I don’t ask my dad about the day. At the time, I didn’t understand why.

But, when I was in eighth grade, I was assigned a scrapbook project about September 11th. For the first time, I was encouraged to ask my dad about what happened. It was then that 9/11 stopped being just another date.

I found out that my dad lost three friends in the attacks. He had been on the phone with one of them right before they died. He had to walk across the 59th Street Bridge in order to get home. My father very rarely shows emotion, and seeing that pain is what made September 11th finally feel real to me. I cannot thank him enough for sharing that with me. 

9/11 has since become something that I couldn’t remember, but still mourned. I still cry every year, even now. It’s a strange sort of sad, where I don’t quite know what I’m missing, but I can still feel its absence. By learning about my family’s connection to the day, I am able to understand it more than I was before. I encourage you to ask your family about their connections to that day, where they were, and how it impacted them, especially if you’re one of the younger millennials like I am.  

Some people my age have begun to forget about 9/11. My high school even stopped calling for moments of silence at the exact times that the towers were hit. My friends go about their day without another thought. I began to get agitated that the day wasn’t being remembered, because it shouldn’t be like that.

I will forever be grateful for my junior year history teacher, who was the person first in a while to force us to come to grips with the reality that is 9/11. “As long as people keep sharing their family’s stories, people will keep talking about it,” he said to me, and that’s a powerful statement I’ve never forgotten and continue to act towards. I urge all of you as well to follow this advice.

I have lived in New York my entire life. I do not remember the Twin Towers. But I remember the aftermath of September 11th, 2001, because I lived through it. It’s the only world I’ve known. I lived through a radically changed nation, I lived through people mourning, and I now know that it’s possible to never forget something you can’t even remember.

One Life, Two Worlds: India and America

Author: Gauri Bhatia, Real Life Stories

Hello, Namaste, What’s up, Kaise Ho!

I, dear readers, am Indian-American (not American Indian, you’re not the first to ask). I was born in New York, but go back to India every year to visit distant family and make sure that those cultural connections (and linguistic connections) are still there. I assure you, my life is as exciting as it sounds.

Now, most of what you know about Indian culture may be gathered from various sources: Bollywood movies, some Jay-Z songs, countless YouTube videos (particularly Superwoman), The Simpsons, a few news articles, some literature, maybe some cultural classes in university, an Indian friend here or there who invites you to his sister’s best friend’s brother-in-law’s cousin’s wedding…the list goes on.

And what you know about American culture is gathered from living it. So…you may wonder what it’s like to live both of these cultures simultaneously. The answer? Hectic! Chaotic! And spectacularly entertaining!

First, let me help you understand which stereotypes about India, Indian people and Hinduism are false and which are true.

  • Indian people dance all the time and hear music in their heads at key moments in their life. False…kind of. In general, that’s just what the Bollywood movie producers want you to think. However, I personally am prone to dancing by myself at any moment to the music in my head. I assure you, it is absurdly entertaining and is not indicative of insanity.
  • India is filled with color and pretty outfits, objects and scenery. 100% true! It is one of the most…if not the most colorful place on Earth! Our clothing is colorful, our scenery is colorful, our traditional outfits are gorgeous and colorful, even the food is colorful!
  • Indian food is spicy, as are the people. Yep, that’s true.
  • Hinduism has 330 million gods and goddesses. According to the scriptures, this is true. With numbers like that, odds are at least one is listening!
  • Arranged marriages are the norm. I am going to get back to this one in a bit.

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Now that we have got that out of the way…let’s discuss what it’s like to try to live those stereotypes in the United States. People automatically assume I am fun loving, musical (I’m not by the way, much to my dismay), spicy, colorful and loud! Sometimes it’s hard to reconcile these stereotypes with the person I actually am.

There is a term for people who grew up similarly to me: ABCD. It stands for “American-Born Confused Desi.”

“Desi” means someone from the “desh,” or homeland (i.e. India, Pakistan and Bangladesh). ABCDs are known for being confused (it’s in the name), meaning they constantly struggle between their Indian and American identities. I don’t believe myself to be a victim of this phenomenon!

I like to think that I have successfully bridged both cultures to live the best of both. I have been known to eat the occasional hamburger (forbidden by Hinduism), wear leather (same thing, no cows), cut my hair on Tuesdays (I still don’t get it), and a variety of other things that make me distinctly American.

But there are always those points that make me less American than my “traditional” counterparts:

  • I am accustomed to not fitting in. I was always the kid who didn’t get Christmas or Chanukah gifts (I know, shocking), didn’t understand the allure of tanning booths, always had a ready made Halloween costume (Jasmine/Indian princess, anyone), and definitely the only one who had to have their eyebrows combed by the school photographer on picture day. Those unruly caterpillars nearly did me in…
  • Going to India every year. I think I took it for granted as a child. I have been in possession of a passport since I was three months old and it took me until middle school to realize how amazing and unique this situation was. I have friends now that have still never left the continental United States. Having that direct connection to my heritage and my ancestors just a hop, skip and a 747 away is fantastic!
  • Food – need I say more? No PB&J for me! Aloo paranthas, ladoos and mango lassis on the regular.

Okay, now the big one. Relationships. We all know the stereotype. Indian girls having their husbands picked out for them (from birth, from the age of 20, from the ripe age of 27, etc.). I am here to tell you…that is not strictly true!

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My parents never discouraged me from dating, never promised me to any man (you go, girl!), never did anything but wish me the best. Of course, like any protective parents, they did try to warn me when they thought I was getting too close to the wrong guy, but they never strictly forbade me from any type of guy.

Yet, now they have embarked on a new activity…I like to call it the “parent-approved blind date.” Meaning, they have friends with kids around my age and encourage us to meet, go out, and get to know each other. But I figure this could happen in the U.S. too. I mean who knows me better than my parents? Mumsy and Pop-Tart literally made me into who I am today. I know they have my best interests at heart, so I trust them to “introduce” me to boys. Not to say I will like those boys, but I am willing to give it a shot.

I can only hope to find someone who feels as internationally savvy as I do, whether he be Indian, American, Indian-American, British, Australian, Canadian, Italian, Greek…I could go on, but I think I should stop. This aspect of the culture also speaks to living at home: in Indian culture, children live at home until getting married, no questions and no “get out.”

Overall, I live a very exciting and diversified life. I think living in two cultures from the beginning has enabled me to have a very wide and unique worldview and has led me to make similar friends. Speaking two languages from birth has opened my brain to speaking four now (maybe five, I swear I understand French)! I get the opportunity to attend weddings, eat great food and party on a nearly monthly basis and always have fabulous things to wear (and gift)!

I wouldn’t trade these experiences for anything, and definitely not to be “normal.” I get the best of both worlds – East and West – and live my life fully in both, and I am definitely not confused about that!