Multi-American | How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

'They wrote ‘Osama Bin Laden’ on my picture:' An Arab American girl's memories of the 9/11 aftermath

It didn't take long from the time the planes hit the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 for something ugly to begin occurring in American classrooms. Arab American students, until then perceived as no different from anyone else, were suddenly very different. Classmates regarded them with suspicion, and sometimes outright hostility.

Writing in the Alhambra Source, contributor Nasrin Aboulhosn recalls the shape the bullying took in the aftermath of the attacks. A boy at her high school asked her why her father, a law-abiding Lebanese immigrant, "hijacked a plane and flew it into the Twin Towers." She learned recently that her younger sister had it worse. Aboulhosn writes:

Only now, as my sister finishes college with a degree in child development, have I learned about what she suffered in elementary school. Students bullied Lena, calling her a terrorist after the attacks.

In 8th grade, she posed for a picture with two girls she considered her friends. I knew the friendship had abruptly ended after that, but I didn"t know why until recently.

"They wrote "Osama Bin Laden" on my picture," she told me, adding that the girls also scribbled in a long beard and turban. "They gave it to the guy I used to like"¦I cried and I was sad about it, but there was nothing I could do."