As we recently marked the 10 year anniversary of the tragic September 11 attacks, there is another story stemming directly from that day that many of us never heard about but that is no less notable. An article in today’s Los Angeles Times lays out an amazing tale of tragedy, redemption, and forgiveness.
White supremacist, Mark Stroman, went on a shooting rampage in 2001 seeking revenge for the terrorist attacks. His targets were Arab-looking men in Dallas gas stations. He killed two men and injured a third, Rais Bhuiyan, a Bangledashi immigrant. He shot Bhuiyan in the face after asking him where he was from and left Bhuiyan blinded in his right eye.
At his trials and after being sentenced to death, Stroman showed no remorse. He even wrote letters from prison that defended his actions as retribution for his country and said in an interview that he had planned a fourth attack on a Dallas mosque. Over the years, however, Stroman had an incredible change of heart and mind as he found faith in Christianity.
Despite numerous surgeries and years of living in fear and having flashbacks to that day he was shot, Bhuiyan continually recalled his mother’s advice to always follow his Islamic faith and to forgive others. Once his execution date had been set, Stroman wrote to Bhuiyan and expressed his remorse and asked for Bhuiyan’s forgiveness. Though Bhuiyan realized he had already forgiven him long ago, he desired to meet with Stroman in person as part of a mediation session guaranteed to victims as part of a victims’ rights proclamation that Governor Perry had signed. However, his request for this session was repeatedly ignored and then denied.
Hours before Stroman was executed this past summer Bhuiyan did have a chance to speak to his shooter on the phone. He told Stroman that he forgave him and did not hate him.
“You are a remarkable person,” Stroman responded. “Thank you from my heart! I love you, bro…. You touched my heart. I would have never expected this.”
Even though every case is unique and every victim and family experience tragedy differently, this story is particularly important. Given the tragic events of September 11 which are forever etched in our nation’s memory and Stroman’s resulting violence in the days after, a story such as this is a rare gift, a story through which enormous hatred, pain, and suffering is transformed into something beautiful. For Rais Bhuiyan, the death of Mark Stroman did nothing to heal his pain. Instead, he found his healing in his faith and through the support of those who loved him, so much so that he was able to offer such healing, even to the man that tried to take his life.
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