Fifteen years ago today, I was a pharmacy student in Big Rapids, Michigan. I was in the office of one of my professors, having a general conversation, when his phone rang. He became visibly shook and looked pale as he hung up the phone. "My wife says planes crashed into the world trade center" he managed to mutter and, to be honest, it did not register with me. I thought it was an accident; A small engine plane that lost its course and hit one of the buildings.
I excused myself from the office of my visibly distraught professor and walked down to my lecture room. It was approximately 30 minutes before the start of class, and as I walked in, the footage of the plane crashing into the world trade center was on full display on the big screens. My heart sank, for many reasons, as I watched the details start to unfold.
A few minutes later, I noticed students were starting to trickle in and I immediately went to the main door of our college and waited for the handful of Muslim/Arab students to make their way to class. I told each of them as they came by to turn around and go home. I recall specifically saying "If someone yells at you, screams at you or even spits in your face....Don't do anything. Just keep walking and get to your home."
The world has changed.
On that particular day, the entire world turned and stared at me.
On that particular day, I became THE representative of the Islamic faith. I now speak for the entirety of Islam and am expected to answer for any and all actions of those who claim it as their faith.
I am now the measuring stick.
I am now it.
I have always been somewhat active in raising general awareness/education about my Muslim faith, my Arab culture and my people's struggle for justice in Palestine. But on that particular day, I realized that trying to be an agent of positive change, peace and coexistence is a full time duty rather than a service to be done on my free time.
On that particular day I was both disoriented and focused,
panicked yet calm,
afraid yet full of courage.
On that particular day I came to understand how I can be surrounded by many yet feel completely alone,
Have many thoughts yet be unable to speak,
Have many emotions yet not be allowed to grieve.
On that particular day I realized the full meaning of "other"
and to this day I don't take a second of my life for granted and use every bit of me to be an agent of change
Palestinian, Muslim, American, Husband, Father, Academic, Pharmacist, Coffee Addict, Nutella phene, Pseudo writer, Soccer player, former Canadian, Community servant, Pinch hitter imam, interfaith ninja, Intellectual vigilante, and the undisputed KING of snark