The Effect of the War on Terror on the Average Grammarian
When the World Trade Center collapsed on that fateful day that was September 11, I was in seventh grade. It was evening and I was watching an episode of Friends – coincidentally situated in New York City – when my screen flickered to an image of two buildings imploding into flames and dust and an ‘America Under Attack!’ caption blinking furiously underneath. This was clearly no comedy.
Going to school the next day was a feat. Everyone was talking about it. Students, teachers, canteen-wallas. All I remember was a general and unmistakable feeling of excitement. We knew what had happened was big – tremendous even. But few of us knew what it meant. And perhaps none knew what would happen next.
As Grammarians, we didn’t realize the implications of 9/11 for us when it just happened. We did a good job of distracting ourselves, first with the ‘What were you doing when the towers collapsed?’ and then the ‘Would you turn in Osama if he was hiding in your garage?’ epidemic. And then we distracted ourselves with the politics. We debated about the impact this would have on America’s foreign policy and budget. It all helped us get our minds off what it meant for our future. And perhaps that was good. Because that’s where it would hurt the most.
In the year 2000, 34 Grammarians got accepted into the top 10 US Colleges. In 2002 – one year after the September 11th attacks – that number was slashed by less than half and 14 students were admitted into the same top colleges. Ironically, even though we are moving further away from 9/11 – it is 2008 now – the numbers remain stuck where they are. Since 2001, a growing number of students have opted for UK colleges over American ones. Even those who are offered positions in US colleges may not eventually make it. Student visas are much harder to come by today. The War on Terror has broken homes; destroyed families. But it has also broken the dreams of many hopefuls; shattered the hope of getting into that college that many of us have worked tirelessly all our lives for.
It is not only college hopefuls who have been victimized by the War on Terror. Indeed, those already in college were dealt greater blows. Immediately after the attacks, one old Grammarian was asked to step off an American plane as it was ready for take-off on the requests of suspicious on-board passengers. Another Grammarian in college was approached by an American and asked, ‘Why do you hate us? What have we ever done to you?’ A third Grammarian, let us call him Ahmed, was taking a train from Canada to America. An official came by to check everyone’s passports and when he saw Ahmed’s green passport, he told him to stand at the back of the train so he could keep an eye on him. Tragically, it is not only us Grammarians but Muslims from every country around the world who have been victims of this discrimination.
We’re too enmeshed in school life and tests to really think about the war on terror’s affect on us. But the debris and shards left by that explosion are with us all. It has made us, as Grammarians re-examine and question our religion. It has created uncertainties. And it has given bloom to anti-West feelings where there were none.
The short drive to school is no longer safe. Suicide bombings occur by the day and protests rage on steps away from our campus. The War on Terror is now a natural, routinely part of our lives. Whether this War will ever end, is anyone’s guess. Until then, and for now, the War on Terrorism continues to terrorize all of us.
By: Minal Khan