The anniversary of 9/11 is difficult for me because it’s a painful reminder of the discrimination that followed my family. I usually take a break from social media so I don’t think of the “terrorist” jeers, or the screams to “go back to your country.” It didn’t matter that my Mom volunteered to be a translator or that I attempted to enlist in the army. From the outside our skin, dark features, and last name were synonymous with the enemy.
The prejudice was heaviest at work for me. I had two jobs to support myself through college. The ordeal motivated me to be my own boss so I had control over my career, the people I surrounded myself with and the customers I interacted with. So I could treat and lead others the way I’d want to be led. I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t go back to sleep when I encountered the #afterseptember11 hashtag on Twitter. I clicked on it and I instantly became emotional reading the heartbreaking experiences other Arabs and minorities faced and continue to endure.
It’s ironic that my latest venture, ROAR for Good, officially turned one yesterday. I didn’t share it outside the company because it didn’t feel…right. Now I want to reclaim that. There’s something symbolic about how it came around. Instead of a tragic day that set actions in motions I’d rather forget, I want to remember it for what it was and the person I became.
It’s been 14 years since the 19-year-old me said “One day, I’m going to have my own business.” I never would have guessed it would have fallen on the date that turned my life upside down and inside out. Except now, it’s memorable as a new beginning.