On this, the seventh anniversary of a terrible tragedy, I have hope.
Each year, as the calendar flips to September, I start counting down the days. I remember what I was doing when I first heard the planes hit, when I heard the towers fell, when I heard the Pentagon was under attack, when I heard yet another plane went down in a field. I remember the sun shining so brightly that day, in contrast to the pain in my heart. I remember falling into Chris' arms when I arrived home in the evening, and falling to my knees in prayer.
The world changed on that awful day. I was oblivious to much of the danger and hate in our world. But now we are ALL painfully aware of messy politics and religion and humanity. My daughter will forever grow up in this, thinking it is normal. As American citizens, it's now normal to worry about security at the Super Bowl, normal to see soldiers at the airport, normal to glance with wariness at an airplane in the sky which seems just a little too close.
However, a citizen is about to be added to our ranks. My brother-in-law, Muhammad Mashiur Rahman, also known as Jyoti and Uncle Joe, passed a test yesterday to allow him to become a United States citizen. Jyoti was born and grew up in poverty-stricken Bangladesh. His parents were educators, and understood the great value of knowledge. As a child he read about America, listened to our music, and studied our language. From an uncle, he heard about the great opportunities in the United States. Jyoti yearned to make a life here.
But it wasn't simple. Everyone in the world wants to live in the USA. Jyoti had to take an English-proficency test (the TOEFL) for admission to college. He had to borrow money from his family, to show he could support himself here. He had to apply and interview for a visa. And he had quite a bit of luck to be accepted into our country.
So he arrived, attended college, met my sister at a fraternity party, graduated, moved to New York and California and now Missouri to be with Rachel. They just celebrated their sixth wedding anniversary. And all the while, he has been in LOVE with America. He loves the people, the democratic process, the hope and opportunity. He has built a wonderful life with my sister here, complete with a house and a dog and tickets to Cardinals games.
And our Uncle Joe is a Muslim. He was raised in a Muslim family by loving parents. (I've met them, so I know how great they really are. They still send me Christmas cards, all the way across the world, each year.) Religion is an important part of who he is, which is why I even mention it. But he's not a fanatic, just a normal man like most Muslims. He celebrates Christian religious holidays and has even attended church with us on occasion.
Next Friday, I will have the honor of watching Jyoti as he is sworn in as a United States Citizen. For the first time, he will have an American passport. He will vote in his very first Presidential election. He will have all of the freedoms that come with citizenship, but I assure you he will not take them for granted.
On an anniversary when intolerant and hateful people tried to change our nation, I can sincerely say they haven't. Fellow Americans, Jyoti feels blessed to be a part of our great country. But I think we are the lucky ones. We are welcoming a freedom-loving, flag-waving man into our ranks. He's as American as the baseball games he loves so much.
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