- In the aftermath of that fateful day, the South Asian community, especially Sikh-Americans, experienced a surge of hate crimes and racial profiling across the country.
September 11, 2001, 9:00 AM. Sitting in Ms. Reed’s fifth-grade classroom, about 25 miles west of the Pentagon, I was getting my desk ready. Pencils and eraser on the right, my crayon pack on the left. I proudly turned in yesterday’s homework and added a gold star next to my name on the class tracker. It was just another day.
About 10 minutes later, however, I could see a pow-wow of teachers huddled in the hallway directly across my desk. Many facial expressions bounced around among the teachers, ranging from hushed tones to grave concern. Ms. Reed eventually came back to the classroom and instructed us to take out our library books and read for some ‘quiet time.’ Change in plans. Instead of starting this week’s newest social studies lesson, I guess I was to work on my reading comprehension instead.
Throughout the morning, classmates slowly began to leave, the number of children dwindling after each distressed parent pickup. I wondered when my mum would collect me so I, too, could go home. Eventually, we were told we would be dismissed early. Unaware and oblivious of the outside world, I stuffed my book in my backpack and headed towards the school bus circle. Finally home, I tried to make sense of what my parents were discussing around the TV set but was unable to process the details. Maybe, mercifully, I do not remember much else from that day.
My generation is frequently called the post 9/11 generation. The generation that will never know flying without TSA restraints, attending public events without grand security checkpoints, or living with a general sense of mutual, public trust. Although too young to have any concrete memories of that date that will live in infamy, today I wistfully watch videos and images of the death toll, destruction and plain evil. Reading the names of the deceased at the 9/11 Memorial at the World Trade Center and the National Pentagon Memorial, and even driving past Shanksville, PA on Route 70, I think of the lives lost and the 3,000 families destroyed.
In the aftermath of 9/11, the South Asian community, especially Sikh-Americans, experienced a surge of hate crimes and racial profiling across the country. Even today, I still implore my dad to always have a clean-shaven look every time he travels by flight. Sadly, I am all too familiar with TSA officers scrutinizing him in a certain way, leaving me filled with fury and disappointment.
It has been almost 80 years since the Supreme Court upheld the exclusion of Japanese Americans from the West Coast military and turned a blind eye to their internment in Korematsu v. the United States. Yet, we are still allowing innumerable hate crimes, random security checks, and domestic terrorist activity across the country. We need to do better. We must do better to avoid yet another date that lives in infamy.
Ithi Joshi is a lawyer and dancer. Her interests include Ashtanga yoga, autobiographies, and baking desserts. She currently lives in Washington, D.C. @IthiJoshi