Déjà vu, from New York City to Boston 11 years later

A shocked nation comes to grips with yet another incredible act of terrorism.

By Sujeet Rajan


NEW YORK: More than 11 years later, after the dastardly 9/11 terrorist attacks, it’s déjà vu time.

A city in lockdown, cowered down people, businesses closed, barricades and yellow police tape strung on sidewalks on swaths of streets, spread across miles where acts of terrorism and violence have left at least 5 people dead till now, and scores injured, with an armed assailant still on the loose, since this past Monday beginning with the Boston Marathon bombings.

Mail has been intercepted containing Ricin, a poisonous substance sent to a Mississippi Senator and to the President. Racially motivated attacks against a Muslim woman and a Muslim man have been reported from Massachusetts and from New York, with abuses hurled by the perpetrators telling ‘Muslims go back.’ The Bangladeshi man who was attacked in New York has a dislocated shoulder.

Rumors have swirled, pointed comments made about the supposed identity of the two assailants, who now in the past two hours we know grew up in Kyrgyzstan in the former Soviet Union, according to an uncle of the two suspects.

Two immigrants from Morocco, Yassine Zaimi and Salaheddin Barhoum, were earlier identified as the two suspects wanted in the bombings. They had to plead their innocence on Facebook to be exonerated. An Indian American student, Sunil Tripathi, missing from Brown University since last month, was also placed as a potential suspect. He’s still missing. Several broadcasts and publications before yesterday, when the FBI released photos of the two suspects- and even then speculated – that the suspects were ‘dark skinned.’ Not Black. Not White. Dark skinned, as in from the Sub-continent or of Middle Eastern origin.

Groups of police were stationed at every station from New Jersey and Connecticut to Manhattan. Subways in New York looked like entry points to government buildings with policemen and anti-terrorist squads standing guard with assault weapons.

More than eleven years ago, it was the same in New York City after the 9/11 attacks, as a city of bewildered, shocked people grieved, huddled in homes and bars and cried openly. Hate, resentment swirled outside for anybody who looked remotely close to being an Arab, as wakes and candlelight vigils were held for the victims at Ground Zero. If looks could have killed, tens of thousands of dark skinned people would be dead by now after the 9/11 attacks.

Now, like then, America is again at cross-roads.

Maybe the resentment against Muslims, which had abated, will continue; detentions and security levels at airports will increase, intense surveillance against potential suspects will trickle down to innocent families and communities around the country. After two exorbitantly expensive wars, that in part brought America down to its knees financially, there will again be a call for increased expenditure on security, to bolster arms and weapons.

But unlike the America of 11 years ago, the America of today has much more to lose in the wake of the terror enacted by the two men, who came here as immigrants around eight years ago, attended high school in Massachusetts.

The America of today had healed from the wounds of those few days of havoc in September of 2001. The stock market is robust, the economy is shaping up, the country was trying to put the memory of two wars behind, bring their troops back home.  The focus of late has been to energize the country with new thoughts and ideas, to put evil thoughts that subsumed the nation, to ostracize and condemn, to be aggressive around the world, past them.

The focus of late had turned to gun control after the Newtown, Connecticut school shootings. The measure failed in the Senate this week, including legislation that would have barred illegal gun trafficking, and made it harder for people to register guns. That measure now will come back to haunt those who opposed it; there will be a renewed fight on Capitol Hill, the bitterness and divide between the Democrats and the Republicans, who scuttled the measure, will increase. Politics will again go back to the rock ages as far as bipartisanship is concerned.

The biggest news that had consumed the nation in the last couple of weeks was the immigration reforms proposals in the Senate. It seems like a bad joke now, given the timing, with fingers already pointing to the two terrorists from Kyrgyzstan – who had come to this country eight years ago. What are the chances of more family reunification visas being doled out, millions of new immigrants coming in soon?

There’s already a sinking feeling inside their hearts for many of the immigrants who were hoping for a quick solution to the immigration quagmire that had people stuck in limbo for decades.

But these two alleged terrorists may have scuttled it before it even begins. The focus, like 11 years ago, is now going to be on why immigrants should be admitted to this country to live legally, without knowing who they are.

It’s a mess, all over again.

(Sujeet Rajan is Editor-in-Chief of The American Bazaar)

To contact the editor, e-mail: sujeetrajan@americanbazaaronline.com

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