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"Terror Experienced Abroad: An American Student Studies In Muslim Kenya," This Is About Terrorism.

1424 words - 6 pages

There's news...go talk to Athman, Anri said as she and Jason hurried off in a direction away from the hotel.Okay, I thought to myself. What on Earth does that mean? The "news" I was to receive was more than I ever could have imagined.Athman, one of our academic directors, was telling other group members the little news that we had at that point:There have been some bombings in the States... from what they're saying, it sounds like the Pentagon in Washington has been attacked and a plane has hit the World Trade Center in New York. They think it was terrorists.What were we supposed to make of all of this? Just nine days earlier, nineteen of us arrived from our respective universities from all over the US for our semester abroad on the Islamic coast of Kenya. Mombasa, our host city is predominantly Muslim, as is much of the East African coast. While only seven percent of Kenya's population is Muslim, the majority of this group resides on the coast. Arab lifestyles as well as Islam were introduced into the region as early as the seventh century AD, so the coastal society has a long history with Arab culture. The juxtaposition of the African and Arab cultures on the East African coast is one of the more fascinating components to the education we were getting on our semester abroad. But the news of September 11th changed things for us as Americans living among Arabs. This warm and welcoming community in which we were studying Arab-African culture was connected to the Islamic terrorists who were to blame for the attacks -- because of a common religion.Just after the news broke, our group all gathered at Athman's house in Old Town Mombasa, where our other academic director, Tracy, waited. We watched the reports on CNN for three hours. Here we were, a cluster of nineteen students who had not known each other two weeks ago, trying to process these events as Americans in this Muslim living room, thousands of miles from home.As we viewed the same footage of the collapsing towers and the smoke rising from the Pentagon over and over again, we found that there was not much we could say. Tears were creeping down my cheeks. And for what reason? I'm from Chicago halfway across the country from New York. My family was safe; I knew that. Others, though, were waiting to contact their families in the New York Area. Anri, whose family lives in Manhattan, was on her way to find a phone to call her parents when we met on the street. John, who is also from New York, could not contact his family because phone lines were not working. And I was the one who was crying. No one really knew what to do with this information. We all just stared blankly at the screen to see the few clips CNN had of the planes meeting the WTC towers, looking for some assurance some explanation for what we could not even believe.So, now our academic directors were left with this problem: What to do with nineteen conspicuous American college students until December? Is it safe for us here? President...

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