I collect these kinds of stories, and one day I'd like to write more about why I find them so incredibly powerful. But with my Friday deadline looming and much still to do, I will add this to the "blog about someday" list, and just pass this story to you.
Rais Bhuiyan's website is here: World Without Hate. After reading this story below, I hope you will sign his petition to try to save Mark Stroman's life.
Mark Anthony Stroman, 41, a stonecutter from Dallas, shot people he believed were Arabs, saying he was enraged by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He killed at least two: Vasudev Patel, an Indian immigrant who was Hindu, and Waqar Hasan, a Muslim born in Pakistan.Just a reminder: this blog is not a forum for debate about the morality of capital punishment.
A third shooting victim, Rais Bhuiyan, 37, a former Air Force pilot from Bangladesh, survived after Mr. Stroman shot him in the face at close range. Mr. Stroman admitted to the shootings. He is scheduled to be executed on Wednesday.
Mr. Bhuiyan, despite being partly blinded in his right eye, has spent the past several months creating a Web site with a petition and meeting with officials in Texas to try to persuade the state to spare Mr. Stroman.
Mr. Bhuiyan was interviewed over the phone. Mr. Stroman responded to questions in a typewritten letter dated June 26 that included a photograph of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001: smoke is seen billowing out of the North Tower and United Airlines Flight 175 is moments away from striking the South Tower. The ellipses in his answers are his.
Q. Mr. Bhuiyan, you were working as a clerk at a friend’s service station on Sept. 21, 2001. What do you remember?
A. I was robbed a couple of times. It was a dangerous neighborhood. People would come into the store to sell televisions and computers. One time a man came with a gun and I thought he wanted to sell it to make money. He said, “If you don’t give me money I will blow your head off.” On Sept. 21, it was Friday around 12:30 in the afternoon. Business was slow. It was raining cats and dogs. The neighbor from the barber shop had come in and brought chips and drinks. Then there’s a guy coming into the store with a hat and sunglasses and a bandanna and a gun in his hand. I thought it was a robbery. I said, “Don’t shoot me please. Take all the money.” He said, “Where are you from?” He was four or five feet away from me. I felt cold air in my spine. I said, “Excuse me?” It was a double-barrel gun. I felt a million bee stings on my face at the same time. Then I heard an explosion. I saw images of my parents, my siblings and my fiancée and then a graveyard and I thought, “Am I dying today?” I looked down and saw blood was pouring from my head. I placed both my hands on my head to get my brains in and I screamed, “Mom!” I looked and he was still staring at me and I thought he might shoot me again if I don’t fall and he doesn’t think I’m dead. The floor was getting wet with my blood. Then he left the store. I could not believe he shot me. I thought I was dreaming, going through a hallucination. I didn’t do anything wrong. I was not a threat to him. I couldn’t believe someone would just shoot you like that.
Q What happened next?
A I wanted to go outside. I went to the barber shop and they ran away. They saw me full of blood running like a slaughtered chicken and they thought the guy was behind me. I saw my face in the barbershop mirror and I couldn’t believe it was me. (He begins to cry). A few minutes before, I had been a young guy in a T-shirt and shorts and tennis shoes. (He begins to cry more forcefully). Sorry, I haven’t cried for the past nine years. I was lucky because there was an ambulance in the area. I was asking God, asking for forgiveness, saying I would do my best. Reciting verses from the Koran. I said I would dedicate my life to the poor. I felt my eyes were closing and it felt like my brain was shutting down slowly.
Q What was the extent of your injuries?
A There were 38 pellets in my face. I couldn’t open my eyes or talk or open my jaw. I couldn’t even eat or drink anything. It was very painful to even swallow because I was shot in my throat. After a few hours in the hospital I could open my left eye. My face was heavily swollen. There were gunshot wounds. My face was horrible. I couldn’t believe it was my face. I prayed, “Please God, give me my face back.” (Mr. Bhuiyan was discharged the day after being treated; he was told he did not have health insurance. For the next several months, he slept on people’s couches and had to rely on physicians’ samples for medication, including painkillers and eye drops. He had several operations on his right eye; he now has only limited vision in it.)
Q. Mr. Stroman has admitted trying to kill you. Why are you trying to save his life?
A. I was raised very well by my parents and teachers. They raised me with good morals and strong faith. They taught me to put yourself in others’ shoes. Even if they hurt you, don’t take revenge. Forgive them. Move on. It will bring something good to you and them. My Islamic faith teaches me this too. He said he did this as an act of war and a lot of Americans wanted to do it but he had the courage to do it — to shoot Muslims. After it happened I was just simply struggling to survive in this country. I decided that forgiveness was not enough. That what he did was out of ignorance. I decided I had to do something to save this person’s life. That killing someone in Dallas is not an answer for what happened on Sept. 11.
Q. If you had the chance to meet Mr. Stroman, what would you say to him?
A. I requested a meeting with Mr. Stroman. I’m eagerly awaiting to see him in person and exchange ideas. I would talk about love and compassion. We all make mistakes. He’s another human being, like me. Hate the sin, not the sinner. It’s very important that I meet him to tell him I feel for him and I strongly believe he should get a second chance. That I never hated the U.S. He could educate a lot of people. Thinking about what is going to happen makes me very emotional. I can’t sleep. Once I go to bed I feel there is another person that I know who is in his bed thinking about what is going to happen to him — that he is going to be tied to a bed and killed. It makes me very emotional and very sad and makes me want to do more.
• • •
Q How are you doing, Mr. Stroman?
A “i’ve only 25 days left until Texas Straps Me to a Gurney and pumps me full of toxic bug juice, But then again, we all face an Ending at some time or another. All is well, Spirits are high, i sit here with a Cup of Coffee and some Good ole Classic Rock playing on My radio, how Ironic, the song ‘Free Bird’ by Lynyrd Skynyrd...”
Q What do you think of Rais Bhuiyan’s efforts to keep you from being executed?
A “Yes, Mr Rais Bhuiyan, what an inspiring soul...for him to come forward after what ive done speaks Volume’s...and has really Touched My heart and the heart of Many others World Wide...Especially since for the last 10 years all we have heard about is How Evil the Islamic faith Can be...its proof that all are Not bad nor Evil.”
Q Tell me what you are thinking now, a few weeks before your scheduled execution.
A “Not only do I have all My friends and supporters trying to Save my Life, but now i have The Islamic Community Joining in...Spearheaded by one Very Remarkable man Named Rais Bhuiyan, Who is a Survivor of My Hate. His deep Islamic Beliefs Have gave him the strength to Forgive the Un-forgiveable...that is truly Inspiring to me, and should be an Example for us all. The Hate, has to stop, we are all in this world together. My jesus Faith & Texas Roots have Deepened My Understanding as well. Its almost been 10 years since The world stopped Turning, and we as a nation will never be able to forget what we felt that day, I surely wont, but I can tell you what im feeling Today, and that’s very grateful for Rais Bhuiyan’s Efforts to save my life after I tried to end His. A lot of people out There are still hurt and full of hate, and as I Sit here On Texas Death watch counting down to my Own Death, I have been given the chance to openly Express whats inside this Texas Mind and heart, and hopefully that something good will come of this. We need More Forgiveness and Understanding and less hate.” Mr. Stroman signed off, “Texas Loud & Texas proud...TRUE AMERICAN.... Living to Die – Dying to Live.”