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Scorched by the scourge of post-9/11 racism

We asked readers tell how their lives were changed by Sept. 11 and its aftermath. Here, in their own words, are some of their stories.

Name: Sandra Herd
Age: 38
Home: Tampa, Fla.

I am of East Indian descent, from Trinidad and Tobago (fourth generation). At the time of 9/11 I lived in New Jersey and commuted to NYC to work on First Avenue and Houston.

After 9/11 I was very nervous about going into the City, as nervous as everyone else. I was particularly affected by the fear of leaving my home that enveloped me on a daily basis. You see, although I come from a country in the Caribbean, Americans thought I was Iraqi, Pakistani, you name it.

NO ONE would sit next to me on the commuter bus to and from the City. My seat was often empty, despite the bus being completely full. People in New Jersey would stare at me at the supermarket, on the bus, in the stores. One clerk at the supermarket acted like I was invisible while waiting for service.

I would for about 2 years after 9/11 stay indoors as much as I could, as people's hatred and fear was often bestowed upon me for not being American.

I have now been living in the US for 16 years, and am an American citizen, now raising my family in Florida. One lesson that America has taught me is racism.

It is a school that is never out — a constant, day in and out, and a continuous never-ending struggle. I know what it is like to go for a job and not be considered, to have people look the other way when passing in the hallway of your office, to say hello and hear silence in return, to have the seat next to yours vacant on the bus.

America likes to deny that these things do not exist, but almost every American, in their own little way, every day contributes to the generous and accumulative racism of this country.

9/11 just gave them a reason to do it more openly.


Name: Michelle Zaniewski Singh MD
Age: 56
Hometown: Houston, Texas

My husband is a wonderful man, a Sikh and a physician. He wears a turban. After 9/11 we were afraid to go to work. Some cars followed us. Children yelled "Osama Bin Laden" at us.


Name: Robin Burns
Age: 59
Hometown: Pensacola, Fla.

My business offering beautiful ethnic clothing and patterns for Indian sari suits was growing in 2001.

On Sept 12, I had a lunch appointment in Pensacola and wore one of my favorite ensembles. The lunch crowd bristled at my appearance and sales on my website dropped to nearly zero.

I've had to refocus my business, which has never recovered, and have stopped importing goods from overseas.

The mood seems to be a little more accepting now, 5 years later, but I doubt I will ever be able to establish the business I had planned.

Crises involving ethnic groups of any type create a negative response to ethnic goods of all types-people don't think, they just react and as a result the world is much less beautiful.