how the world sees america

Pakistani Americans

September 11, 2007 12:00 PM

7-Eleven on 9/11

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Ali Khan grew up watching America from behind a 7-Eleven counter. Though his family is from Pakistan, Ali never questioned his “American-ness,” until 9/11.

Drinking Gatorade and listening to Tupac, we zip down the Hempstead Turnpike in Long Island, New York toward his 7-Eleven.

As a teenager, Ali felt at home here, slushing slurpies while listening to customers’ stories. There was the corpulent banker hooked on beer, the rebel hooligans with nerdy aspirations, and the two married men who met at 2 a.m. on Wednesday nights for surreptitious sex. Ali kept their secrets safe.

Outside work, Ali worked out, raced cars and chased girls. He saved up to supe up an old Mustang, which he took out on the drag circuit. Italian American racers affectionately dubbed him “Guido Ali”. At night “Guido Ali” found lust, dating a “smoking” Puerto Rican waitress who worked at the local “Hooters .” She dubbed him her “Amor Ali.”

Then one morning the New York skyline sparked and filled with black smoke. A day of numbness followed before “fear, sadness and anger” settled in: Fear of more; sadness for friends who lost loves; and “anger that someone had done this" and his life might change because of it.

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