My heart hurts this morning. That could have been any one of us.
Tuesday night at 11:38pm, as I was finishing up a paper, I saw Duke Universit’s Omid Safi post on Facebook about a shooting in North Carolina. I didn’t read more than the headline. Scrolled past it.
At 12:07am, I saw FouseyTube post a picture of two beautiful hijabed girls who had died. He had linked to an article about the shooting. I was shocked.
Around 12:15am, a friend of mine posted that his friend Deah Barakat had passed.
Finally, it all came together. In waves, I was fed information from different people on social media. I looked to major news outlets to see if there was any developing story. Nothing.
It took me thirty-seven minutes to put it together. I heard of the UNC shooting and it took me thirty-seven minutes to grasp that this shooting had claimed the lives of the young Muslims whose faces were filling up my news feed.
It’s hard to admit, but at the time, those thirty-seven minutes did not faze me. Before I made the connection, once I heard of the shooting, I thought “Oh another shooting?” Then continued scrolling.
The moment I realized that I knew the names, I recognized the faces – my heart stopped. It was like watching a car crash in front of your very eyes – surreal.
Its hard when something like this happens. Not because it’s someone you know, or even knew years ago; its because it all feels real. It’s a punch in the face to remind you that sometimes, bad things happen to good people. Young professionals, pillars of their community – they dedicated their time to providing hygiene and charitable work to the homeless.
I’m ashamed of those thirty-seven minutes. I hate that it took me that long to feel the pain and sadness wash over me for this heinous crime. When I realized that the victims were Muslim, when I realized that they were hijabed women, and people that I once met, it all changed.
What was the the first thing popped in to your mind when you heard of this? Hate crime? We don’t know. I won’t speculate but the idea that this could have been motivated by Islamaphobic feelings scares the life out of me. I’m scared for my sisters who proudly cover their heads, for my brothers who keep their beards, and for the community leaders who have dedicated their lives to improving their cities and towns for the sake of ALL people, not just Muslims.
My heart is heavy and it hurts. It hurts for the family of Deah Barakat, Yusor and Razan Abu-Salha. It hurts for their friends and those who knew them at UNC. My heart aches and goes out to them.
My heart is confused. I’m not sure whether to feel pain over their loss, or anger over the way they were lost. I don’t know who was to blame, and I don’t know why.
My heart is upset. Why is nobody reporting this? Why did it take me thirty-seven whole minutes to realize what happened? Why did the media take so long to respond? They surely can’t have been sleeping. I know I wasn’t.
My heart is sorry. I’m sorry for those who have been directly affected by their loss, or the loss of others in similar situations.
My heart prays. It prays for the future of our Muslim Ummah (community) that we no longer have to live with his pain and that we can move forward – united.
My heart is scared. This could have been any one of us.
Aisha Yaqoob is a graduate student at The University of Georgia studying Public Administration & Policy. She has a background in journalism and public relations, and has worked with various nonprofit organizations in the Atlanta area.