If you are older than thirty, you probably can remember where you where when the twin towers fell in 2001. I was 13 years old, I was homeschooled and I was always home at this point. I think I was recovering from 25 stitches in my knee so I spent a lot of time on the couch. It was hard to walk because I was not allowed to bend my right knee. 

The TV was on and it changed to the news. For hours we were glued until we finally took a break and turned it off. I don’t need to remind you of the feelings. Maybe you had had much stronger feelings then I. I had no family in the states other then my parents. No friends who might have been affected. It was sad and horrible and unexpected, but I had no personal connection. Nothing caused me personal pain, other then the amount of empathy my 13 old self knew to feel for the victims. My pain started after.

We’ll backtrack to my birthday in August. I had no friends, but my parents threw a little party with their friends and our one next door neighbor. My two memories of that birthday; I received a globe as a gift and my parents showed the documentary when I was 6 years old the BBC followed us around for a little while on their world traveler documentary. A family with a child traveling was rare and we were with them long enough for our 10 minutes of fame.
Thanks to handy-dandy YouTube, this video is now available for all if you want to see it yourself.

In the video, my dad often wears an army green coverall and a black and white keffiyeh. This is the headdress that is most commonly associated with people of Arab descent. At the end of the clip, we are driving through the Khyber Pass in Pakistan. This is close to Afghanistan. When we were there camera crew suggested with visit one of the gun shops. Filming can’t be done there, but the crew had hidden cameras in the bags and themselves and placed them really well to get some footage. They paid to have my dad test out an AK-47. Not something he would have ever done, because did not have the funds for those types of unnecessary things. They paid and my dad shot. The image is of a bearded man with an Arab headdress, military greens, and shooting an AK-47. And then a month later the biggest terrorist attack in my known history occurs on American soil.

The issues with our neighbor started out small. We had a house with no AC and the windows were always open. He built furniture and would spray a finish at the end. He used to let us know so we could close our windows and stay inside for a couple of hours a week. It was fine. He stopped telling us. My room was closest and once it got into our house, that smell lingered. I have a sensitive nose. My dad went over to tell him to stop or his children would be born with 2 heads. My fear was high that my future children would be deformed. Then he had multiple basset hounds and then barked and howled and when they started they wouldn’t stop. They howled outside my window in the morning and at night. I could not sleep and I’d hide under my bed. The night my parents couldn’t find me they went crazy. There was a constant battle.

Then the calls started. Back when it was a house phone, it would ring and it would just be breathing. I refused to pick it up. I don’t remember what was said because I choose to forget. Anyone who knows me knows I still don’t like to pick up the phone. Text me if you need me. The cops were called and a case was filed for the harassment calls because the neighbor called us foreigners and terrorists and said we were part of the 9/11 attacks.

Then a van would start showing up and parking in the remote lot by our house and just looking ominous. It had no reason to be there. Calls often happened at the same time. I was at an age that I could be left alone sometimes and I would stare out the window watching the van and waiting for it to be long enough to call the cops because it was loitering.  It was normally gone before the cops shows up, but I described it. It was always parked with its plates hidden, so just a description was all we got. The cops were always so kind and they classified it as a hate crime. We called in so many reports, but so far there was nothing to catch them on or tie him to the neighbor.

One day the van parked outside the neighbor’s house. It was hidden by our palm trees but we could tell it was the same van. It was the neighbor’s friend. My mother stepped outside the gate to get a photo of the plates and I watched from inside. She didn’t expect him to be outside and see her, but he was and he was mad and chased after her. She shut the gate but he threw it open right after her and he towered over my petite little mother. He was tall and he was big and buff and she was holding the evidence. I grabbed a handgun and I walked out the door and stood on the step of the house. I was scared to walk out. This wasn’t the first time I held a gun. There were many times but normally I was just transporting it to the person who would make the move. In my head, all the gun training I had after my dad was attacked in a bad S. FL neighborhood was running through my head. Do no aim unless I plan to shoot. My dad didn’t believe in sending a person to hell and told me to shoot to stop, I planned to shoot to kill. I did not want the chance that it did not work or the chance that he was alive to change the story that it was self-defense. He was on our property. He was threatening my mother, I would shoot to kill him. I was 13 and I felt so guilty for my thoughts afterward. I stood with the gun on my side and I found my voice to tell him to back away because I had a weapon and I would use it. By all miracles, he did.

I really have no recollection of the events that occurred afterward. Cops were called, and they questioned me. I remember them asking multiple times if I aimed. They finally stopped pressing me and said I did the right thing. The company that owned the neighbor’s home, evicted him and bulldozed his house. We were the only house on the block until we moved away in 2006. Today there is a Starbucks at the front of the road we drove down. The first time I went to it, I was scared and I have never driven further than Starbucks. I have no idea what is there. Maybe one day I will drive back there because now I know there is nothing that can hurt me. It is all in my head. I am not a bad person for thinking about taking a life. I was prepared to do what I needed to. I shut it out for so long, but on the 21st anniversary of 9/11, here is my story of how this date has triggered me. I would just say I was sad about the tragic event and the loss of life, of course I was and I am, but this is the rest of my story.

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  1. This is good. Also, it’s good that you’re writing help to express your feelings. Your Dad read this. He asked, if what you think about the book?

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