As we grieve for the devastating loss of three young people from our community, and all the joy they had brought their families, friends and classmates, and all their dreams and potential, can we find solace in knowing that we are not alone?
The solidarity in honoring their memory has been remarkable. Thousands from all walks of life, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, have gathered at vigils. And people from around the country, and around the world, have been watching, many undoubtedly wishing they could be here to honor their loss as well.
Still, as an immigrant, as someone who can’t help their appearance, it does make me wonder: Is it safe here? What does it mean that this could happen to these three exemplary young people, so widely loved and admired? As much as I love my life here in North Carolina and want to be a citizen of this country, it does make me pause and reinforces thoughts I have everyday: Do people want me here? Am I welcome? Is this a place that I can lead a happy, productive life?
Then I recently heard what Yusor Abu-Salha herself had to say, and it made me feel a little more hopeful. Last summer, she recorded these words, which speak so clearly to both her own welcoming and gracious spirit and our shared hopes for our community and our country: “Growing up in America has been such a blessing… although in some ways I do stand out.. there’s still so many ways that I feel embedded in the fabric that is our culture. And that’s the beautiful thing here that it doesn’t matter where you come from there’s so many different people from so many different places, of different backgrounds and religions. But here we’re all one. One culture and it’s beautiful to see people of different areas interacting and being family, being one community.”