That night Dad woke them up with urgent shouting: "America is under attack!"
Saranda wriggled in her bed and half conscously she could recognize Victor's crying and Dardon's
quick footsteps along the corridor approaching her bedroom.
"Hey, wake up!" Dardon shook her arms, but she only muttered to him to get lost. It took many persistent shakes, but finally she opened her eyes and sat up glaring at him.
"What's up?" Saranda finally asked him, while rubbing at her eye.
"There is a war, in America," he answered before running out leaving the door opened.
"Look at those skyscrapers falling apart like paper boxes..." she could hear his exciting shouting from the living room.
Entering the room she found her all family frozen in front of the TV.
"How terrible, all these terrified people running for their lives...may God help them," her Mum muttered watching the images of New York straight after the bombing of the Twin towers. Victor sobbed
and Mum covered his eyes protectively with her hand.
There was a silence disturbed only by the screaming of injured people on TV. Saranda stayed behind
their backs, unnoticed, glaring at the screen. She was afraid that if she moved the images would come
alive and she would feel the real pain and horror just like once before.
Finally Dad said: "Remember this day, the world will never be the same again after September 11!"
Soon they would all realise just how true this statement would become.
Next morning on their way to school Saranda could hear people's laments on the bus stop.
One old lady was crying as her son was in New York at the time and she didn't know what's happened
to him. Dardon met a friend from his soccer team and they started loudly describe the image of falling
of Twin towers.
Saranda was happy when their bus finally came and she pushed him inside. People at the bus were unusually quiet, their grim faces reflected the mixed emotions after seeing the disturbing images of
the previous night.
Suddenly a group of men in dark suits started loudly discuss the terrorist attack and Muslims. One of them stood up and turned to his companions: "Trust me guys, all Muslims are terrorists." He left on the next bus stop but the statement stayed hanging in the air. The atmosphere in the bus felt oppressive.
Saranda touched her scarf and felt like choking.
Dardon looked at Saranda quizzically: "Are we terrorists?"
"You'd better ask Dad about that, but I for one don't feel like one," she found an empty seat and sat down.
"That's sort of cool, you know..."
"Cut it out, Dardon," she turned her face to a window. She could feel an elderly lady sitting opposite starring at her.
"Poor Americans, so many live lost and what will happen to us now?" The lady murmured under her
breath. Saranda looked up at her and smiled sadly as she was not sure if the question was addressed to her. The lady met her eyes and leaned forward: "I am old, born not far from this intersection, you know, but what about you lot, migrating to this country in thousands with your peculiar customs..."
Saranda got up suddenly realising that the bus stopped in front of Dardon't Muslim college. He had already disappeared among the crowd rushing to the front door. She quickly followed him. The lady
watched her to leave. A sour smile came across her lips.
Saranda rushed to catch up with Dardon. He stepped on the busy road without looking around and some drivers honked at him. Saranda finally caught up with him near the school entrance. The loud whole school morning pray reminded Dardon that he was again late for assembly. The boys in their praying hats stood in perfect row on the right and the girls on the left, together preparing Arabic words after their Deputy principal. The Religion teacher moved from row to row watching closely the children's behaviour and attention to praying. She looked Dardon up and down when he quickly joined his class, taking out his praying hat from his pocket. Saranda shrugged, it looked like the routine would be the same like everyday. She quickly turned around and ran along the street to her College. On the way she met with Doha, who looked upset.
"Someone draw rude pictures on the wall of Mosque, with the words that we are ones to blame for the attack," she hastily explained to her while entering the gate.
"I've heard morning that stones were thrown at mosques." Saranda nodded.
Doha stopped suddenly in front of their PC room, her face twisted with a hidden pain: "Thank God you will live in a free country, where no one will persecute you for your beliefs," she looked up at Saranda with tears in her eyes: "My Father said this to me before he drowned on this shore." She spread her arms in an attempt to cover whole space and then she let them fall in a deep sorrow.
Saranda felt that there was nothing she could say so she just gently squizzed Doha's hand and then quietly entered their Religious room. The lesson had already started so they quickly found empty seats to avoid their teacher attention. Fortunately she was busy talking to a Muslim lady at the front.
"We have a visitor," a girl from the front turned to them.
"Who is she?" Saranda asked observing the visitor's rich red Muslim dress with a shawl loosely held over her long black hair: "She is cool, look, she doesn't care if you can see her hair." Saranda added admiringly.
"I know her," Doha suddenly whispered into her ear: "She has visited the Abuh Ahmed's house a few times, she is a teacher and a writer, I think."
Saranda wanted to ask more but the lady turned to the class smiling kindly: "Dear girls, let me introduce myself, my name is Nagasful Zahedan and my grandfather came to Australia from Afghanistan in the
late 19th century. My father was a devout Muslim and I am..." She looked around the attentive faces: "I am Muslim of the heart."
"What does that mean?" Saranda blurted out without thinking.
"Saranda," the teacher looked at her crossly from the corner: "It is extremely rude to..."
"It is allright," the lady smiled at Saranda: "Being a Muslim is part of my identity."
Saranda thanked her for the answer and the lady continued in her talk. Her face was expressionless only her kind smile enlightened it from time to time. She spoke quietly, trying to convince: "I am sure
you have already met people who blame or your parents for what happened in America," the lady looked around the classroom on the nodding heads. Her thin golden earrings tinkled in agreement: "It's
tragic and sad, but I want you to know that they are not bad people, people just don't understand what is happening..."
"I like her," Saranda whispered into Doha's ear: "Once I will be like her, a Muslim of the heart."
"She is right," Doha added: "Getting worried doesn't help us."
"And what will?" Saranda asked, but Doha was already lost in her pray.