September 29th, 2001

Dear Charlie,

It has been so difficult not writing in you for these past two weeks. I have had moments where I really, really wanted to but I didn't read your letter yet and I thought it might be cheating if I did. I'm also glad I waited because reading your letter about your family watching M*A*S*H* was really heart-warming. Moments like those are important in a person's life, especially times like now.

So I went back to school last week. At first I was happy to get out the house because I thought I was going crazy. I felt trapped in a bubble of sadness and destruction. I thought that school would be a place to get away from my anxiety and stress about it all. But I was wrong.

Walking back into school, everyone had these horribly glum faces. No one was smiling or laughing or playing in the hallway like usual. That's totally understandable but what happened next is what got me upset. I had just closed my locker and was walking to science class when I saw Rachel and Sarah. They clearly saw me because I smiled and waved at them. They promptly turned around and walked in the other direction. I was confused. At first I thought maybe they didn't see me so I walked a little faster to catch up with them and called out to them. Just when I reached them Sarah turned around and said "Go back to your own country terrorist!". I was so shocked I just stopped in my tracks. I looked at Rachel but she was just glaring at me. Sarah said it so loudly that all the other kids in the hallway turned to look at us. I didn't know what to do and I couldn't help the tears that were falling down my cheeks. They weren't sad tears, I was just really so angry. I was also confused. I remember someone else calling out "yea, get out of here" and I had turned to run when I felt someone grab my arm,

I looked up at the person pulling me away and saw it was Amir. He had the most solemn expression on his face. He took me the long way the science down the back staircase. Right before we emerged into the hallway, he said, "Don't pay attention. They are just ignorant. People are going to act like that. Just keep your head up and don't respond. It isn't worth it to fight and argue". At this point, I didn't know what to say. This was the longest stream of words Amir had ever spoken to me and he was telling me to ignore the hateful things people were saying to me!

The bell rang right after that moment and we both quietly walked into science class. There were only two seats available and they were right next to each other, so we just sat down quickly. All the teachers had these talks with us about what was going on and how we felt about it. A lot of people shared about people who were missing or had passed away. The entire last two weeks feels like it has been a funeral. I think we are mourning something bigger than just the people we've lost though.

-Zara