As we grieved the events of September 11, 2001, some Americans were faced with both sadness and a new sense of suspicion.
"My family's Pakistani, but I'm from America," explained Imaad Nasir, a Muslim and Central Pennsylvania native, now studying in Berks County.
"Pennsylvania autumns, football season, those are the things I grew up around," Nasir recalled.
On September 11, 2001, Nasir was just like any other junior high kid.
"I think my classmates, most of them just knew Imaad, you're like Ahmad Rashad the guy on NBA TV," Imaad laughed. "And then after that it was like the suspected terrorist, maybe is Imaad this? "
Nasir remembers classmates suddenly fearful and nervous. "You know, you just want to fit in and then 9/11 happened," Nasir said.
"I'm born in Pakistan and I now live in Berks County," said Mahmood Majid. "People do ask me when I use my name Mahmood, what religion am I?"
But for the most part, Majid, of Exeter Township, says his post-9/11 interactions have been positive. He's happy to extend an invitation to his local Mosque, the Islamic Center of Reading.
"See what we're all about. To see that we are peaceful, loving people," said Majid.
Hamid Chaudhry was born in Pakistan and has lived in the U.S. since 1988.
"I get checked twice at the airport," laughed Chaudry describing the changes he's seen since the 9/11 attacks.
But Chaudhry said he doesn't mind and wears his patriotism on his sleeve.
"This is still the land of opportunities," said Chaudhry.
Hamid owns two businesses and said they've grown since 9/11 and he's seen a change in his customers. "A lot more Americans all of a sudden are really educated about Islam and about Muslims," said Chaudhry. "So that's a big plus."
Of all the things the 9/11 attacks set into motion, for Nasir, Majid and Chaudhry, they also started a conversation, opportunities to educate others and themselves.
"That was one of the big things I realized is that post-9/11, a lot of Muslims didn't know their own religion, just like practicing or Muslim by name," Nasir said. "So it made me want to learn more."
And Imaad has advice for everyone navigating a changed America. "This is like a polarizing event in our history and our generation is the first generation to be here, to be experiencing this and we're at the very front of this," said Nasir. "Don't succumb to fear because fear is a very debilitating emotion."
Allentown, PA 18102