Ten years ago on Sept. 11 I was attending grade six in College Place. This year on Sept. 11 I was flying into a major city in the Middle East. I was 11 then. I am 21 now.
On that day 10 years ago, I sat in a classroom at Meadowbrook Intermediate School listening to the teacher try to comfort a roomful of confused children as we watched one of the most horrific attacks any generation of Americans had experienced.
I never would have suspected then that one day I would be living in the Muslim world, attempting to acquire their language, trying to learn their culture and adhere to their traditions. Nor did I speculate I would be falling in love with such a precious people.
Ten years ago I didn't see them as precious people. I didn't even know how. I had no Muslim friends, and I had never met an Arabic person. All I knew were mugshots of terrorists and pictures of airplanes crashing into buildings.
I didn't know that some day I would share meals with Arab families, drink tea with Muslim friends, or live in a place where every morning I am woken to the sound of a mosque inviting its neighbors to pray. On that day 10 years ago I only knew sadness.
This year I know something I didn't know then. I know now it is impossible to understand a group of people when we have only ever experienced the very worst of that group. We cannot judge the people of the Middle East based upon our memories of that sad day in 2001. This year, 10 years from that day of tragedy, I am gladly flying into a city I love, in a part of the world I never thought I would be, to kiss faces I've missed, ask of the condition of mothers whom I have never met, and swap stories of a summer holiday spent apart.
Sept. 11, 2001, changed many things in our world. But it didn't change the fact that even though a people may speak the same language, or have similar-sounding names, or even be from the same country, they do not all think the same.
Every culture has different opinions within itself. Different factions. Different values. I encourage all Americans to think more openly of a people whom most have never known, in hopes that maybe someday we may even love a people so foreign to ourselves.