The World Trade Center was still burning when Mehmet Ibis hopped in his car and headed for Manhattan in search of his brother.
The daylong hunt for 26-year-old Zuhtu Ibis ended that night on the Hoboken waterfront where Mehmet, exhausted and unable to make it into Manhattan, passed out inside his car.
Sometime before dawn, Mehmet and three friends who had joined him in the search were jolted awake by the glare of a police flashlight.
“Where’s the bomb?” a New Jersey Transit officer started yelling, according to Mehmet Ibis’ account.
The cop ordered the men out of the car and called for backup. Police, after finding a plastic BB gun inside Mehmet’s vehicle, put him in handcuffs and branded him a terrorist. It was only after a more senior officer intervened that he was uncuffed and allowed to resume the hunt for Zuhtu, a Cantor Fitzgerald bond trader.
“The whole thing was depressing, but I didn’t have time to sit around and be upset because I had more important things to do, like search for my brother,” Mehmet Ibis told the Daily News.
The search ended in tears.
Zuhtu Ibis, a married father who worked on the 103rd floor of the north tower, was one of 60 Muslims killed in the 9/11 attacks.
And that despair was only the beginning, as the destruction of the World Trade Center ushered in a period of fear and profound disquiet for American Muslims.
The months and years that followed forced them to face relentless name-calling and finger-pointing, suspicions voiced aloud and whispered behind their backs, and even acts of irrational retribution.
“Everything’s different, even the way people look at you,” said Ibis, whose family hails from Turkey.
Ibis said he’s been twice labeled a terrorist by customers at his New Jersey gas station. His elderly parents, meanwhile, were once branded “f—–g terrorists” at a grocery store.
“I’ve been here since 1995,” he said. “It used to be a beautiful country, beautiful people. It’s not the way it used to be anymore since 9/11.”