Your Stories of 9/11

Riaz Tejani grew up in Los Angeles. He now teaches at the Phoenix School of Law.
Nick Blumberg
By Nick Blumberg
September 09, 2011

The tenth anniversary of September 11, 2001 is a monumental anniversary by any standard. But Fronteras decided it was important to reach out and hear your stories of where you were and how the attacks have affected your life. We found our voices by using the Public Insight Network. See and hear your stories below.

Riaz Tejani teaches at the Phoenix School of Law. September 11, 2001 was his first day of grad school at Princeton University in New Jersey, about an hour away from New York City. Tejani is an Indian Muslim, born in New York and raised in L.A. But after the attacks, many looked at him as a possible foreign threat. "This was perpetrated by young guys, physically appearing like I do. Suddenly, I was in some ways my own worst fear, on the surface of things."

Even though he faced more suspicion than before 9/11, Tejani doesn't remember feeling angry. He took it as an opportunity to educate people that there is wide variety within Islam. Tejani also thinks 9/11 taught America that we need to be aware of what our country is doing in our name. "I think we're all a little more informed than we used to be, a little more engaged as a whole. I hope that continues."

Listen to Tejani speak by clicking the links to the left.

Lisa Urias was at home with her one year old daughter in Payson, Ariz. Lisa writes, “My friend and neighbor, Gretchen, came to my door with her towhead blonde one year old daughter. This was not unusual. Gretchen and I were close friends - bound by children and a life in common as stay at home moms.”

“This time, however, was different. From the look on her face, I knew something serious had happened. Her husband was a pilot with America West Airlines, and she was with me a lot - filling the hours while our husbands were working. She asked me with a stunned expression if I had turned on the television. If I had seen what happened.”

“We watched together in horror - with our two little girls on our hips - wondering how, and why, this tragedy was unfolding.”

Marian Kamlin lives in Phoenix. She spent almost 20 years teaching English in the United Arab Emirates.

Marian Kamlin is studying to be an accountant in Phoenix. On September 11, 2001, she lived in the United Arab Emirates city of Al Ain, where she taught English at a university. Kamlin remembers witnessing the shame that Emiratis felt after the attacks. "I went into the shopping mall just a couple of days after, and I saw this one Emirati man who was looking down at the floor, at his feet. I looked around a little bit, and none of the Emiratis were meeting the eyes of any Westerners. They were just kind of going into themselves."

Kamlin says that September 11 has lead her to be more outgoing, especially when she encounters someone who's Muslim or from the Middle East. But she thinks making human connections is important, no matter what sparks the connection. "If people knew each other better they would know, yes, we are all different from each other, everyone's unique; and they would also know that we have so many things in common. And I think that would prevent things like 9/11 from happening."

Take a listen to Kamlin by clicking the links to the right.

Edward Kerr was also far away from the United States when the attack happened. Kerr and his wife were enjoying the second-to-last day of a vacation in Merida, Spain. He remembers his response to watching coverage of the attacks on TV.

“When I realized all that had actually happened, I was devastated.” Kerr writes. “I simply held my wife and cried.”

Despite the horrific events, Kerr and his wife tried to enjoy the last two days of their trip.

“Whenever people discovered that we were American, they went out of their way to express their compassion and outrage at what happened. At a factory tour, a Spanish woman came up to us crying and distraught. We were touched not only by her, but by many others too.”

Kerr’s trip back to the United States was an ordeal. “At Heathrow, we were seated in a make-shift lounge in a parking structure. The airport was in utter chaos. Every policeman had some type of automatic weapon. We were extremely fortunate to get on our flight to San Francisco.”

“As it turns out, we were the first flight back into SFO. It was dark as we approached the jet way. As we drew near, we saw that all of the United baggage vehicles were lined up with their head lights on to greet our arrival. All of the drivers and baggage handlers stood and saluted. At that moment I was profoundly touched by that proud, patriotic gesture. It was beyond good to be safely home, but I knew in my heart that home would never be the same as when we had left.”

Cory Marr works at Intel in Phoenix. He served four years in the Navy, but was living as a civilian on September 11, 2001. After the attacks, Marr says he "got swept up in the rhetoric" and rejoined the military, serving in the Arizona National Guard. He completed training to become an officer, but returned to civilian life. After about a year, he joined the Army and did a tour of Afghanistan.

Marr says he has a deep appreciation for Afghan culture and its emphasis on mutual respect. But American military leaders didn't always show the respect necessary. "I was on one mission with the Afghan National Army. Their leader actually told me, 'You're the first American to show us any kind of respect.'" Marr says that was hard to hear, since the Afghans and Americans are supposed to be allies.

Hear what Marr had to say by clicking the links on the left.

In the first moments after the attacks, some were unsure whether it was actually the work of terrorists, as P.J. Janik recalls. “Although at first it appeared to be a horrible accident, there was a pit growing inside my stomach that told me this was not an accident.”

Janik wrote about what it was like experiencing the attacks in a small city. “Living in Prescott, Arizona, you can feel somewhat removed from the rest of the state and world. It is like living in a Norman Rockwell type of town. [The terrorist attack] stopped us in our tracks. It was surreal in its devastation and in its speed. It was a moment in time that you feared more about your country than for yourself.”