Most anyone 20 years old or older will remember Sept. 11, 2001 as a life-changing day.
I certainly do remember it that way in a variety of ways, including coming to see it as a reason to love a Muslim brother more than I had previously considered possible.
The day itself began with listening to Radio Reader on SC Public Radio. The book was by Robert Fulghum, also author of ‘All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.’
News broadcasters broke in with a story of a plane hitting the World Trade Center. I was a self-employed photographer at the time, having left the news business for a 14-year hiatus. There was no need for me to report on the events as they unfolded. I was grateful for that.
I found it incomprehensible, however, that CBS News commentator Dan Rather said one tower had collapsed. “You had better check that fact, Dan,” I thought, running my reporter training through my head. “That cannot be.” But it was true, and many more tragedies became true.
In the span of years since then I have had opportunities to cringe at the site of people wearing Arab dress on airplanes and in public places. This is an honest report on fears.
But they were unfounded fears.
I had to remind myself of my original concerns about Arab terrorism in the case of the Oklahoma City bombing. Many thought in the early minutes following that tragedy that Middle Eastern terrorists were the instigators. No, the Oklahoma City affair was the act of a Caucasian American.
Nuts come in a wide variety, American, Black, Caucasian, Asian, Christian and practitioners of the Islamic faith.
Not all Americans are evil and not all Muslims are. These are considerations I have made many times meeting the challenge of the image those falling towers 12 years ago.
It was a concern when I first met Abdullah Al-Tamimi.
He is now my friend Abdullah and it didn’t take long to become confident that my friend shares little more with Osama bin Laden than being from Saudi Arabia.
Abdullah shared the home with my family. I found him to be trust worthy for the two years I was in close contact with him.
The thing I was struck with the most is how much like one of our children he seems to be — if I can avoid noticing his accent and darker skin.
Abdullah was a foreign exchange student at Clemson when I knew him, until prejudice there drove him away. We shared dinners. He talked about his family, his education, his friends, his conflict with his father over the way his father treated his mother. He loves his mother. He called her at least every week.
He was concerned about his grandmother who suffered from diabetes. He called his grandmother at least every week.
He worked hard. Before coming to the United States he managed an apartment complex, bought the family groceries and provided transportation for his mother and sisters.
Like so many people we meet who have differences from ourselves we mistrust because of fear.
There is nothing to fear about Abdullah. He is another guy, reaching a long distance to make it through life. He chose the United States believing in its opportunity.
He came to love our family and we came to love him.
This is another lesson to be remembered out of the tragedy of 9-11-2001.