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Tuesday, September 11 2001, I remember like it all happened yesterday. A ten years old girl…me…running and playing with her best friend. The sea water was warm and salty and the sky was red…

“They were making drawings in the sand…

-Here is Italy…and here is America, then the sea…and here is my country. Syria! And here, in Syria, is my home where I have a cat…

The map was terrible but Said’s explanations were very convincing. They were both 10. She truly believed that Said is the most handsome boy from both Syria and Italy…in fact from the whole world. She just hoped that he wont see her blushing every time he touched her hand.

-And you’ll go to Syria when you’ll grow up?

-Of course! I promised to my grandmother. And to my cat! I’ll go back home to work and get married. Uggghhhh…Cari…

The moment! Her heart almost jumped from her chest.

-Yes Said…

-I…I kinda like you…you’re pretty…

She felt her cheeks turning dark red.

-I like you too…

-You wanna be my girlfriend?

His girlfriend! She never ever imagined such joy. But she needed some reassuring.

-You mean…like we’re gonna marry?

-Yes. But not now.

-When?

-When you’ll be…14. Then my father will talk to your father and we’ll get married.

He took her hand. It was cold and sweaty.

-Yes! I will…but this doesn’t mean we have to kiss on the mouth, right Said? Cause it’s so gross…

-How do you know? My sister Samira said it’s fun.

-I saw my brother kissing his girlfriend and it was gross. And Nonnina said that it’s allowed only after the marriage. I think the girl can get pregnant…

-Really? Didn’t knew…then, how should we do it? I think we need to kiss to be girlfriend and boyfriend…

-I could kiss you on the cheek. But you close your eyes cause I can’t if you’re looking at me…

He closed his eyes and she kissed him. Then they started to giggle.

-Cari…will you move to America?

-No! Why?

-My mom said you will! She said you’re American and that you have another dad in America. She said that your mother is American and she’ll divorce your father to be with your other dad from America. And my mom never lies!

She looked stunned.

-I’ll ask dad…he never lies neither!

-I don’t want you to go to America. They said on news that is war there. I saw two air plains hitting some big towers. And they said is a war against…how did they said…terrorists. But my dad, who knows about these things, said that they’ll go after all Muslims. And we’re Muslims. Cari, I don’t wanna be in war against you. Cause I like you…I love you…

She mumbled something and ran. Rushing home, almost demolishing the door to her father office.

-Dad, Said said…

-Carissa! How many times have I told you! Knock on the door before rushing like a storm! Out! Yes, you heard me! Go outside and walk in properly!

She started to cry.

-Is it true, dad? That I have another dad in America? And that I’m American? And that America is in war?

-Who told you this?

-Said. He’s from Syria.

Her father took the phone and called someone. She couldn’t understand his words but she knew it has something to do with Said’s family.

-Alright. Come here, Carissa. Sit down.

She suddenly felt afraid. And guilty…she started to regret saying anything to her father.

-Who puts food on the table for you?

-You, dad.

-And who buys you clothes and books and all you need?

-You.

-Then I guess it’s clear who’s your father! Now, this boy…Said.

-He’s so nice and so handsome, dad! You’ll like him!

-He’s history! You’ll never see him again! Do you understand? He can go back to Syria or where the hell he came from!

She felt the blood boiling trough her veins. The rebel in her woke up and shouted out loud.

-If he’s going, then I’m going with him! And when I’ll be 14 we’ll get married! And I wont have to see you again! You’re not my father, Said was right, I have another dad!

She thought he’s gonna hit her, but her words had a stronger effect. Her father’s eyes were filled with coldness and hate.

-I’d rather kill you with my bare hands than seeing you marrying a Muslim! Enough! You’re grounded the whole week! In your room! Now! You’ll only have water for food…till Islam will be out of your mind!

She didn’t knew the meaning of the word “Islam” or “Muslim” but she knew she’ll never trust her father again. She cried big salty tears behind her window glasses, under the red sky, drawing little hearts and writing “I love you, Said” on them.”

Said and his family returned to Syria the next few months. It was my first big crush and the first time when I felt heartbroken. A few years later (when I was 14) he contacted my grandmother, but I only found about this a few years later, when I coincidentally (or not) found him on a Islamic site. 

He married a beautiful Syrian girl at the age of 18 and, last time we spoke, she was pregnant with their second baby. They lived in a region of Syria controlled now by isis.

They were good people. Hard working people. He dreamed of writing a book. She dreamed of becoming a teacher. Their little boy wanted to become a doctor. They were expecting a baby girl.

They asked for my help before hell break lose…I failed…acting too late. A day or two…I hope that, wherever they are, they forgave me…

And terrorism became a personal issue. I’m proud to be American. Especially today. We can pray, we can love, we can forgive. But we can never tolerate terrorism. 

 

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