“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

The intercom beeps.

"Mrs. Davis, send Lynn ElHarake to the principal's office. Immediately."

I rack my memory for something I did wrong, but think of nothing. "I am an honest person," I remind myself, dragging my feet to the principal's office. "I am a hard worker. I am a good daughter."

I am surprised to see someone else already seated across from the principal. 

My mother.

She has a deep crease in her forehead. Something is wrong.

An hour later, I sink back into my classroom chair. Mrs. Davis turns on the television. The nightmare plays before us. Hiding my shaking hands under my desk, I repeat to myself: "I am an honest person… a hard worker… a good daughter…"

And on that day, September 11, 2001, I add for the first time:

"I am a Muslim-American."

I will forever honor that part of my identity. I will honor it by standing up as a Muslim whose religion has been hijacked by radicals. By fighting against those who deny the universality of human rights. By convincing stakeholders to invest in Muslim communities. 

I will honor it for my younger self who was almost afraid to be a Muslim in America.

I will honor it because life is too precious to be afraid of who you are.

— Lynn ElHarake