My family was fortunate enough to be given a chance to start a new life in America. Our plan was simple; take advantage of this blessing so there’s a purpose to the twelve-year wait my family had endured while our case was in process. This showed how determined we were to arrive in the land of the free. Unfortunately, our dreams came to an end the year before our flight to the US. Not only did September 11 impact American lives, but also the lives of billions of Muslims around the globe. To this date, we’re still searching for peace of mind.
Just one year after the tragic collapse of World Trade Center, my family and I were on our way to Houston, Texas to start a new life. With great anticipation, we were really looking forward to the land of the free where everyone is treated “equally”. If you ever go to a new place, you expect to be greeted and treated with respect, right? The first thing that happened to us as soon as we exited the plane was being approached by a man in full black uniform with Department of Homeland Security badge on his shirt. “Ma’am, can you please follow me?” Not understanding what the man had said, my mother asked my brother for help. “MA’AM, COME WITH ME PLEASE.” The man’s voice grew more aggressive so my brother told her to go with him.
My brother was twelve years old at that time and was the eldest of the four siblings, and now that our mother was gone, he was our guardian. Roughly about ten minutes later, a woman with the same uniform approached us and told us “come with me right this way” in a friendlier tone. “What are ya’ll’s names?” the lady asked my brother. “I’m Ali, this is Talal, this is Azka, and he’s Bilal,” my brother explained in a nervous voice. “What is the purpose of your visit?” the lady asked. “My dad live here” my brother replied. “What does your dad do? When did he come? Who sponsored him?” The lady listed the questions to ask my brother. “My dad is no work right now, my dad came four months, my aunty,” he answered accordingly.
Next, the lady thanked us for answering the questions and moved us to the same room they had taken my mother. When I saw my mom after roughly an hour, she was putting her scarf back on, crying. It was ironic that coming from a suppressed country, I had never seen my mother cry, except when she and my dad had arguments. However, the first thing she experienced in this so called “free country” was tears and embarrassments. Still then, I hadn’t lost hope. I still believed that the country was truly what everyone in Pakistan exaggerated, “awesome”.
After the hugs and kisses from my mother, the same man demanded that we follow him to another room. At this time it was almost three hours since our flight had landed in this great of a nation and my mom kept telling us that our dad is probably waiting for us outside. What she didn’t know or, should I say, what we didn’t know was that we weren’t even half way done with the interrogation. When we entered the other room, we all held our heads in disbelief. Every single one of our luggage was scattered throughout the room with customs going through it as if we were hiding something. They were too ignorant to realize what sort of crime a bunch of infants can possibly commit. The luggage were being checked in a way that my mother literally said “even if we don’t have anything, they’ll find it.”
The suitcases were being cut open with a knife, clothes were being unfolded, and folders were being emptied. I cannot think of anything they did not do to our properties. The interrogation was so bad that most of the clothes had to be thrown away because they got ripped. This was all a big joke. At points I thought to myself that they’re not doing this because it’s their job, they’re taking revenge for nine eleven. And to think of it now, I am confident that this is exactly the reason they treated us the way they did. We felt humiliated, from our bodies being stripped to our luggage being vandalized. The situation was very much like being, and I use this word seriously, raped”. My mom was too innocent and the rest of us were too young to be going through such despicable treatment, while other passengers were given no hard time at all.
From the point I exited the plane to the point I met my father for the first time in America, everything that happened in between was the worst experience I ever had in my life. Till today, we often get targeted for the color of our skin. My family went through a twelve year struggle to come to this great country. However, the six hours at the interrogation were more painful than the time we had to wait. Not everyone gets the opportunity to come to America and people who do, don’t take advantage of the blessing. Our plan was simple; make the opportunity worth the wait and succeed. Unfortunately, the events that led from the point I exited the aircraft to the point I’m typing this essay, made it difficult for a brown person to be as successful as an average American because such events have destroyed my morals. My biggest relief was getting through the interrogation and stepping out on the land of the free because that’s when I truly realized the ignorance that this country really possessed. I was given the first-hand experience of hatred as a welcome gift to the United States. It was truly a blessing.