‘The Ripple Effects’: Growing Up In Pakistan On 9/11

I’m Sam Nelis and I live in Winooski, Vermont. On September 11, I was in seventh grade. And at the time, I was living in Islamabad, Pakistan, with my family. My dad’s originally from Belgium, my mom’s originally from Montreal, and they’re international teachers. So they were teaching at an international English-speaking school in Pakistan. And we were there for about five years. This was at the tail end of it. So I was there from third grade all the way through seventh grade.

Because of the time difference, it was the evening time, I remember walking into the living room, and my dad, my father, was watching BBC — I think that was the news that he liked to watch there — and kind of saw the towers on fire and everything. And honestly [I] thought he was watching a movie until then I quickly realized what was going on.

Our reaction was shock, I think, at first. Kind of like, “Whoa, what is going on?” And then very quickly, bin Laden and Al Qaeda kind of came out saying that they were responsible for it. And so, right then and there, we knew immediately that it was going to directly affect our immediate lives — especially because I think even that evening, they were already talking about him fleeing to Pakistan, specifically, to hide. And we’re in Pakistan.

We had already been evacuated once a couple years prior because of some tension between the Pakistani and Indian border. There was conflict there, and there were some nuclear threats, so we had been evacuated. I was younger then, so I kind of just went with the flow and didn’t really understand too much was going on. But for this instance, for September 11, I was old enough to understand like, “OK, this is probably going to change a lot of things.”

Click here for the full story from VPR. This story is part of a 9/11 remembrance project, featuring the voices of Vermonters reflecting on how their lives were changed by 9/11. To find the full project, go to www.vpr.org/911.