My family was living in Saudi Arabia at the time of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It was a school night, and I was doing homework. My dad called me downstairs, yelling, “You have to come see this.” All I saw was the image of a tower, spewing torrents of black smoke.
“Cool,” I said half-heartedly.
Some background: I am an American, but I was born in Saudi Arabia during the First Gulf War. When I was four, a car bomb killed seven people in Riyadh, and, when I was five, a truck bomb killed 19 and injured 372 in Khobar, about 15 minutes away from my hometown. The explosion shook our house. I never lost sleep when a car bomb went off, and no one else I knew did either. A family friend once said, “If it’s not happening on your street, then don’t worry about it.”
In Saudi Arabia, I didn’t understand how 9/11 could affect the entire world, how New York City could be on everybody’s street. The people I knew went to the movies so they could watch a building explode and then complained if it didn’t look realistic.
Less than a year after September 11th, my family moved to Boise, Idaho. Back in Saudi Arabia, terrorists seized the ice skating rink where I’d celebrated my ninth birthday; they killed and beheaded several foreigners before being shot by the police. At my ice skating rink. Where I had eaten pizza and birthday cake, men had been killed.
It was then, thinking about blood staining the rink where my friends and I had skated, that I finally understood what had happened on September 11th. I was more than 7,000 miles away, but I finally felt like it had happened on my street.