“9/11” by Ladan Osman, Columbus, Ohio

September 11 October 26, 2011 03:00

topic: 9/11 medium: TEXT

as submitted for the “9/11” Open Call

Ladan Osman


On 9/11, I was senior in high school. The first attack happened
between 2nd and 3rd period. I had never cried in school before. My
first thought was, how is my mother, who wears a veil, going to make
it home? My next thought was, am I safe here? Then: who will tell all
those kids where their parents went? Even though we didn’t know what
happened, I was scared to be foreign and Muslim. To this day, my back
tingles and I hunch my shoulders when I’m praying outside of my home
or a holy house. I think: what if someone attacks me? Certainly people
have voiced that desire to my face. The following is a poem about that

September 11, 2001: Columbus, Ohio

What did my mother feel like at work that day? Did her scalp crawl
the way mine did when she told me about the little girl
who had stinking burns hidden under her scarf?
Who stared at her?

My mother, who can guess people’s professions and birth months,
did she share the dream I had days before?
My father on a plane from Saudi Arabia, the plane crashing into skyscrapers,
my father somehow calling to say I’m okay, I wasn’t on it.
The guilt. Did my French teacher see it?
Osama bin Lay-din, she screeched and pointed at me.
Lay-din, she’d say, even when students corrected her in unison.

The next period, so many students laughing at the smoke,
pointing at the TV, saying: this is like a movie, like a fucking movie
and nobody writing them up, nobody saying: you owe me time.

It was only after a car drove through a masjid
and we knew it was not a Somali woman who had paid for her license
that my father told my mother: knot your scarf at your nape,
like your mother, like her mother before her.
My mother said, these people know we are not one of them.

Who will bother an old black woman?

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