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9/11 taught me the visceral lessons of Americanness

Roya Hakakian


Foreign Dispatch

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A Manhattan street in the wake of 911. Photo: Netflix

A Manhattan street in the wake of 911. Photo: Netflix

Joan Mastropaolo at the 9/11 Tribute Museum holds an archival photograph of the twin towers in New York City, US. Photo: REUTERS/Caitlin Ochs

Joan Mastropaolo at the 9/11 Tribute Museum holds an archival photograph of the twin towers in New York City, US. Photo: REUTERS/Caitlin Ochs

Roya Hakakian

Roya Hakakian

/

A Manhattan street in the wake of 911. Photo: Netflix

On September 11, 2001, I watched through tears as ash fell over the city that had taken me in as a refugee 15 years earlier. Like all Americans, I was mourning the dead, the pierced skyline, the bereft mood of a people who I had never seen bereft. But I was also mourning a loss of my own – the loss of the impenetrable fortress I thought I had entered when I arrived in the United States.

The blare of sirens drowned all other sounds. The sidewalks that had teemed with passers-by were deserted. Suddenly, New York City began to feel like the Tehran I had fled. But while most Americans feared what evil might follow next, I feared that my adopted city might succumb to the same reign of grief my birth city had.


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