I did the same thing in the first two minutes upon meeting her for the first time that I did while sitting with a friend of more than 20 years two days before. I cried. I felt humbled and felt the tears well up, and I let them stay. I didn’t wipe my eyes. I didn’t worry about my mascara smudging or my nose running. I said what I felt: that I was honored to have met her. And then I thanked her for her service to our country.
I met Mrs. Kahn, the mother of the slain soldier our presidential nominee (now our President) managed to humiliate on television, a grieving mother whose son died so that we may all live in a free country. The tears came within those first two minutes.
Two days before I sat in my living room with Pam Horowitz, the widow of the civil rights icon Julian Bond, as I have sat with her on social occasions for more than 20 years. Earlier I commented to my husband, as I have many times, on how honored we were to have known Julian, who also served our country for so long and for so well. I was hosting a simple scone brunch for Pam and her out-of-town guests after the two-day Julian Bond Memorial Symposium, organized by the University of Virginia’s Carter G. Woodson center. When Pam left the room for a coffee refill, I told our other guest how I’d set a place for Julian. When she asked if I’d told Pam, I shook my head no. That’s when I silently cried.
And I am not a crier. I was then in the privacy of my living room. When I met Mrs. Kahn, I was in public, a fabric store called Les Fabriques, off the downtown mall. I went there with my friend the writer Caroline Preston, who needed me for a sewing errand for her newest novel in pictures, The War Bride’s Scrapbook. Browsing in that fabric store, Caroline leaned into me and said, “That’s Mrs. Kahn.” That’s when I knew why the woman in the lovely outfit looked so familiar. She had flashed on my television screen, standing silently beside her husband when he described how his son, a 27-year-old Muslim-American, had stopped a suicide bomber, saving every member of his platoon but himself. Then Mr. Kahn says, “I want to ask Mr. Trump if my son would have a place in your America.”
As I stood before Mrs. Kahn, I felt overcome with a certainty no writer ever wants to feel: words fail me. Words failed me in those moments and words fail me now. The last thing any writer wants is to be out of words. Suddenly, in that fabric store, Caroline said, “She was truly inspirational.” Then Caroline used the exact same word I did, “humbled,” and she is writing about World War II brides while I’m writing about a toy bunny rabbit that comes alive. Our heads were not in the same place. But our hearts were.
Mariflo Stephens’s work appears in the anthologies Worlds Within their Words: Contemporary American Women Writers, The Barbie Chronicles: A Real Doll Turns Forty, and Strategies for Successful Writing. She has won the Sherwood Anderson short story prize and The Washington Review‘s prize for fiction.
Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer to Make Major Announcement on Trump’s “Muslim Ban”:
Joined by Khizr Khan, Faith, Community Leaders in Celebrating “Pride in Pluralism”
On Tuesday, January 31, Mayor Mike Signer of Charlottesville will be joined at a press conference at City Hall by Charlottesville community, faith, and business leaders to proclaim Charlottesville’s “Pride in Pluralism” and to declare that the historic city, home to Thomas Jefferson, is the “Capital of the Resistance” in the Trump era. Signer and the other speakers will issue a call to action for anyone concerned about the fear, division, and uncertainty that have resulted from President Trump’s draconian executive orders. Signer called on all community members interested in these issues to join the event.
Charlottesville is home to a major office of the International Rescue Committee and to hundreds of political refugees who have fled oppression in their home countries for the safety and security of American democracy. In recent days, Mayor Signer has met with Muslim residents of Charlottesville including translators for the U.S. Army in Iraq and Afghanistan, Iranian dissidents, and Syrian political refugees. They have expressed confusion about the implications of President Trump’s executive orders regarding immigration, concern about whether they have simply escaped from one tyranny to another, and fear about whether the United States remains, in the poet Emma Lazarus’s words, a place that embraces “Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
The speakers at the press conference will provide personal and political testimonials about the consequences of President Donald Trump’s executive orders regarding immigration and the importance of embracing pluralism to the nation’s culture, Constitutional values, and economy. They will include:
– Khizr Khan, Esq., Gold Star Families
– Harriet Kuhr, Executive Director, International Rescue Committee
– Rabbi Tom Gutherz, Congregation Beth Israel
– Karim Ganena, Islamic Society of Central Virginia
– Tracey Greene, Executive Director, Charlottesville Business Innovation Business Council
– Other religious, civic, and community leaders
At the event, Mayor Signer will announce initiatives to:
- Gather questions from Charlottesville’s Muslim and immigrant community on visa regarding executive order questions to demand answers from Virginia’s Congressional delegation
- Join Cities for Action’s coalition of mayors demanding progress on immigration issues
- Direct Charlottesville’s City Manager to advise City Council on becoming a Sanctuary City
- Direct Charlottesville’s Human Rights Commission to address anti-Muslim bias
Charlottesville City Hall
605 E. Main Street
For details, contact:
Paige Rice, email@example.com, (434) 970-3113
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