This past Sunday morning, my husband and I were sleeping and were awakened by our children who were excited to start the day. I had been in New York all week so they missed me, and, we were going to take them shopping so they could use the gift cards they had received for their birthdays.
My husband’s phone dinged and I figured, since he is an orthopedic surgeon, that it was the E.R. calling and he would have to go in. My husband looked at his phone and used the “F” word. My husband never swears, and certainly not in front of our children.
My husband turned the phone to me and I read “50 dead in Orlando shooting…”
Like any other American, dare I say human, our thoughts went out to the victims, their families. We wouldn’t be burying our children that week, no one should have to.
But the terror of this type of thing stretches beyond the actions of a terrorist and the people they kill or wound.
Immediately my husband and I thought of his cousin, who just came out this past year. He is gay and lives in Orlando. We texted him and were relieved to find out he had been in Vegas at a business meeting. He was OK and none of his friends had been at Pulse, a club he had frequented in the past.
And then we looked at the name of the shooter: Omar Mateen.
My husband knew the man was Muslim by his name. And then the additional round of terror set in.
Let me explain...
My husband was born in New York. His parents, who have been in the United States for over 60 years, are from India. And they are Muslim. And they live in Orlando.
My husband knows that when an attack such as this happens, the anger, blame, hatred and rhetoric begins. He knows, that with his own Muslim last name, although he is a prominent surgeon who treats celebrity athletes and major professional sports teams; when he is at the airport, he is looked at and treated differently after such an incident. He knows that our children could be teased or bullied at school or camp. And he fears for his parents.
My husband’s parents are retired physicians. My mother-in-law was an OB/GYN for most of her life. She has delivered over 3,000 children into this world. My father-in-law, a retired general surgeon, spent most of his life in the E.R. and saved thousands of lives throughout his career. He also trained at the Mayo Clinic and worked on the first heart transplant and was featured in Life Magazine.
When I first met my husband, and discovered he had been raised in a Muslim home, I didn’t think there would be a future for us. I have one Jewish parent and one Christian. But once I met his parents, his family, I could see my own ignorance and prejudices toward an entire group of people was wrong.
These people were kind. They pray five times a day. They don’t drink, smoke, swear or speak ill of others. And they spent their lives honoring the oath they took as physicians to first ‘do no harm.’
My mother-in-law now has Parkinson’s and my father-in-law, in his 80s, isn’t as sharp as he once was.
But now, in the days that follow Orlando; these two Americans, two doctors who have served their communities, bringing forth life and saved lives; these two people are afraid to leave the house. Whether it be to pick up a prescription, to buy food or even to visit a friend or relative.
In addition to the rhetoric from people like Donald Trump; there is a blame and demonization. Not just of ‘radical Islam’ but of Islam and all Muslims in this nation. And there is retaliation. After past attacks, we have seen threats and action toward mosques and women who wear hijabs (head scarves); just like the one my mother-in-law wears. Just a few days ago, there were threats called into mosques as well.
So like their fellow Americans, and as members of the human race, my in-laws cry and mourn for the victims and their families. And so do the rest of my husband’s relatives in the Orlando area. Many work in medicine and are part of the team who treated those wounded from this heinous attack.
Like my husband, and all of you, I am tired of waking up to terror. The terror of someone with a gun who can kill so many in such a short time, the terror of someone who would pledge their allegiance to ISIS; but also the terror of what incidents like this do to us as a nation. It brings out the ugly side of humanity, divides us, and threatens to harm those who are peaceful and have proven themselves in this nation for over 60 years.