TARRANT COUNTY, Texas—As Americans remember the tragedy of September 11th, there's no question are lives are forever changed. Many lost family and friends as a direct result of the attack. Some lost friends as an indirect result. Stereotypes of Muslim Americans are forever changed.
Nadia Syed, Suha Haseeb, and Reem Abuhandara, members of the Muslim Student Association at The University of Texas at Arlington, are just your college. All three were in 6th grade when the attacks happened.
"The entire faculty had decided not to tell the students. I had no idea until I got home," said Syed.
"We see these two buildings on fire, and we're like, what's going on?" said Abuhandara, whose teacher decided to show her class.
In that moment, the three women went from being care-free 11-year-olds, to something distinctly different.
"I think of radical religion. Extremists," said Jill Carolan, when asked what she thinks of when she hears the word 'Islam.'
Tracy Mitchell says anyone who looks like he or she might be Muslim makes her nervous.
"Yeah, I think that's a given. I hate to say that, but you just, like I said, you never know," Mitchell said.
"We didn't realize that, 'Oh, this guy claims to be Muslim, and he's doing this in the name of God, according to him.' So, we didn't realize the repercussions at the time," said Syed.
"I remember looking up the word 'terrorist,' because I had no idea what it was, and now I was automatically associated with it," said Abuhandara.
The women say the day after the attacks, their lives changed. None have been physically attacked, but they have been spit on and shunned.
"After September 11th, these same people you were associated with, they started looking at you differently," said Abuhandara.
"I was really young, and I didn't know the impact, how big this thing was," said Haseeb.
A decade later, they're dealing with the same stereotypes.
"They were like, 'Well, yeah, don't you guys blow people up?'" said Syed, of a recent conversation that really struck her. "These were my friends, friends that I've had for years, and they had no idea."
"I feel like it is our duty to allow people to perceive us in a different way," said Abuhandara.
For the past decade, Islamic leaders in north Texas have been working to rid the metroplex of those stereotypes. They say the Muslim religion as one of peace.
"[September 11th] opened our eyes that, no more, to hide ourselves in the mosque, and be in closed circuit. We have to open ourselves to the society. We have to show that our religion is not what these murderers did," said Imam Moujahed Bakhach, from the Islamic Association of Tarrant County.
The Islamic community has made it a point to get more involved in the community, and show people that they're Americans, just like everyone else. One big change at the mosque in Fort Worth is a secular addition to Sunday classes. Each week, the whole class says the national anthem.
"It's important to make them feel like they are Muslims and they are American. For them to be proud of, as citizens, not to feel inferior, not to feel second class. You are American. This is our country. This is our society, and this is our national anthem," said Bakhach.