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Where Was I on September 11?

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Some Americans who watched the horrific events of 9/11 on television felt anger. Others felt grief. My family and I felt both, but as refugees who escaped post-revolutionary Iran, we worried that the enemies we had left behind had come back for us.

The post Where Was I on September 11? appeared first on Jewish Journal.

“Wake up! It’s a coup!” my father yelled as he flung my bedroom door open at 5:45 a.m. on Tuesday, September 11, 2001. That summer, I had graduated high school and was planning to leave home for college in late September. I often slept until noon, but there was something chilling about my father’s words that compelled me to jump out of bed. Whereas most of my American-born friends may have suspected that their father was playing a practical joke, my upbringing in Iran forced me to take my father seriously.

I joined my parents in the kitchen and we stared in stupefied horror at a small television, reiterating the same thought: This can’t be happening; such unimaginable destruction only happens in the movies.

“It’s not a coup,” my mother said when she saw footage of United Airlines Flight 11 slamming into the North Tower. “The plane must have had an accident.” Yes, we agreed, this was a fluke; the plane must have had mechanical problems.

We remained glued to the television screen. And then, at 6:03 a.m Pacific Daylight Time, we watched, horrified, as Flight 175 hit the South Tower live.

My mother screamed and my father gasped. I threw myself closer to the television, mortified. A few minutes later, we learned that another plane had crashed into the western side of the Pentagon, and another had crashed in Pennsylvania.

“It is a coup,” my father repeated. “We need to prepare for the worst now.”

Some Americans who watched the horrific events of 9/11 on television felt anger. Others felt grief. My family and I felt both, but as refugees who escaped post-revolutionary Iran, we worried that the enemies we had left behind had come back for us. So we proceeded to pull out old suitcases from the back of a closet—suitcases we had last unpacked after leaving Iran over 20 years prior.

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Iranians know a thing or two about coups and leaders being forcibly ousted from power: There was the 1953 coup d’état by the United States and Britain that overthrew the democratically-elected prime minister, Mohammad Mosaddegh, and kept the Shah (Mohammad Reza Pahlavi) in power. But most notorious was the 1979 revolution, in which the U.S., led by President Jimmy Carter, and Britain strengthened Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and ensured that the Imperial Army didn’t prevent Khomeini from overthrowing the Shah. That last overthrow of power continues to sting because it turned Iran into a miserable, dangerous theocracy.

Iranians know a thing or two about coups and leaders being forcibly ousted from power.

As Iranians who had endured a revolution at the hands of fanatic Islamists, my parents and I had an inkling that morning about who had carried out the attacks in New York. “We escaped their clutches,” my father said solemnly about violent Islamists, “but look; they’ve made it here.”

“We’re not leaving America,” my mother scowled. “You want to go back to Iran?”

“No, but do you want to wait until these terrorists hit the West Coast?” my father replied.

In hindsight, the conversation was pointless; my father didn’t have an American passport. We didn’t even discuss the option of moving to Israel because the Jewish state was in the throes of the Second Intifada, in which 1,000 Israelis were killed by Palestinian terrorists.

So we stayed in that apartment on Rexford Drive, just half a block from the Beverly Hills city limit, and hung little American flags on anything we could get our hands on. Two weeks after 9/11, I began college, wondering whether I had anything in common with my peers in terms of how we were processing such devastation.

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I received some clarity about young Americans (at that time, anyway) on my first day in the dormitories, when I told a group of fellow freshmen that I was from Iran. One of them quizzically responded, “Do you mean Iraq?” When I repeated that I was from Iran, a handful of them asked, “Where’s that?”

There was only one thing to do: I requested five minutes of their time to tell them more about the Middle East, and then asked, “Do you know what a coup is?”


Tabby Refael is a Los Angeles-based writer, speaker and civic action activist. Follow her on Twitter @RefaelTabby

The post Where Was I on September 11? appeared first on Jewish Journal.

Source: Jewish Journal https://jewishjournal.com/commentary/340353/where-was-i-on-september-11/

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