Turks remember living 9/11 on US soil
"As the twin towers collapsed, so did American multiculturalism," says a Turkish resident of New York City during the 9/11 attacks

He had only been in New York City five days when two commercial airliners crashed into the twin towers.

A proud graduate from Bosphorus University in Istanbul, Turkey, Furkan [the name has been changed upon request], 27, reveled in the excitement of the city that never sleeps, daydreaming "of living a peaceful and prosperous life.”

"The first four days in the heart of New York City felt great. We could feel the vibrant and multicultural atmosphere of the city,” he remembers.

"And then two planes attacked the twin towers on the fifth day of my American dream.”

On September 11, four passenger airliners were hijacked by 19 members of al-Qaeda. Two planes were launched into both towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. Another crashed into the Pentagon, headquarters for U.S. Department of Defense in Washington, D.C. The last plane ended in a Pennsylvania field.

The dream was over for Furkan... as it was for other Turks, other Muslims, living in the country.

"Throughout the day, people started realizing it was intentional. You could read ‘America under attack’ on CNN. By the evening, the news started talking about Arab terrorists,” Furkan still vividly recalls on the eve of the 13th anniversary of the attack that claimed more than 3,000 lives.

He suddenly realized with horror that he could very well be targeted as a Muslim.

"Back then, we stayed in a two-story wooden house in Brooklyn, owned by a Lebanese medical doctor. We were afraid of any kind of retribution from people coming out of the bar across the street since people knew it belonged to an Arab. So we decided to keep watch during the night,” he recounts.

Although he found a job a month later, he still decided to leave the U.S..

"I didn’t experience any kind of attack. But it didn’t mean I wouldn’t experience any. I didn’t see a good future in U.S.,” he says.

"As the twin towers collapsed, so did American multiculturalism,” believes Cahit Oktay, who could see the World Trade Center on his commute from Brooklyn to Manhattan, on that fateful morning.

Cahit, 23 at the time and now a Turkish journalist, dreamt of a better life and job opportunities when coming to the U.S. "There was an economic crisis and a chaotic atmosphere in Turkey in 2000,” he recalls.

Just days after the attacks, he says, Muslims went through a very difficult time.

"Many Muslims were kicked out of their jobs. Some bank accounts with Muslim names were closed. Many Muslims felt the need to change even their names. Even some Hindus wearing a head wrap were thought to be Muslims and became targets of verbal and physical attacks,” he says.

Halil Yeniay, 44 at the time was working in a store only 20 minutes away from the Twin Towers. He is also Turkish.

"The behavior of the people around us radically changed," he says. "Five policemen raided my house on October 30 and asked questions like: ‘Are you Mohammed? Are you Muslim? Which mosque do you attend?’ And they arrested me.”

He said the FBI kept questioning him in prison, asking the same questions, whether he knew people suspected to be behind the 9/11 attacks.

"I stayed for almost six months in the prison,” he says. "When I was released, the only thing the FBI said to me was: ‘You were in the wrong place at the wrong time’.”

Last Modified: 2014-09-12 09:39:01
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