The following story first appeared on Neighbors go.

Rais Bhuiyan of Dallas speaks message of forgiveness

Lindsey Beaver, Neighborsgo, Sept 8 2011 

In the months leading up to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, Bangladesh native Rais Bhuiyan left his New York City home to build a life in Dallas. But in the wake of those attacks, his life here was shattered when he became one of the victims – not of a terrorist attack, but of a hate crime that sent him on a 10-year journey.

Shortly after noon Sept. 21, 2001, Mark Stroman walked into Bhuiyan’s gas station on Buckner Boulevard. Wearing sunglasses, a bandana and a baseball cap, Stroman pointed a double-barrel shotgun in Bhuiyan’s face and asked him a chilling question: “Where are you from?”

“I felt the sensation of a billion bees stinging my face and then I heard an explosion,” Bhuiyan said. “Then I looked down at the floor and saw blood that was pouring like an open faucet from the right side of my brain. I looked and saw that the guy was still standing there, staring at me. I thought that maybe if I don’t pretend that I’m dying, he’ll shoot me again so I held my head and jumped on the floor.”

Bhuiyan, who is now blind in one eye, is scheduled to speak Friday night on "Ending the Cycles of Violence: Reflections on Compassion, Forgiveness and Healing" at the McCord Auditorium in Dallas Hall at Southern Methodist University. The two-hour event starts at 7 p.m.

Bhuiyan’s discussion is inspired by his decade-long campaign to save his attacker’s life.

Stroman, a white supremacist who killed Vasudev Patel, a Hindu from India, and Waqar Hasan, a native of Pakistan, was sentenced to death and executed July 20 at Texas Department of Criminal Justice Huntsville Unit.

“After 9/11, he wanted to take revenge,” said Bhuiyan, who is a Muslim. “I was running a campaign to save his life. He was ignorant; he was not capable of distinguishing right from wrong. I knew his execution would not eradicate hate crimes from this world; we would have simply lost a human life.”

Bhuiyan said he wants to convey a message: how people can end the cycle of violence and how “we can see something positive out of a negative experience.”

“Though I lost vision in one of my eyes, it opened the vision in my heart and I see things in a different way,” he said. “Let’s not live in the fear; let’s break the cycle of violence.”

Victim’s daughter to speak at event

On 9/11, Christina Rancke, then a seventh-grader at Summit Middle School in New Jersey, was pulled from her classroom and told there was an accident at the World Trade Center, where her father, Todd Rancke, was managing director at Sandler O’Neill & Partners.

“No one really knew what was happening or why it was happening, it was just terrifying," she said. “Probably the hardest part of what happened that day was not knowing what happened.”

For months, Rancke said, people were still missing, including her father. It wasn’t until a couple of months after the terrorist attacks that he was pronounced a victim, she said.

On Sept. 11, SMU Chaplain Stephen Rankin will speak on behalf of 21-year-old Rancke, the student event chair. It's part of a series of free public events to commemorate the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

Rancke's event, Service of Remembering, will be from 7:30-8:30 p.m. on the steps of Dallas Hall. For a complete list of events, visit smu.edu.

Throughout this week, a memorial of 2,997 flags for the victims of 9/11 will be set up outside SMU’s Meadows Museum.

And a special website, Share Your Thoughts, Preserve Your Memories, has been collecting the community’s thoughts and memories of 9/11 at 911remembered.org, which has “provided a great forum for students to cope and record their memories,” said Candy Crespo, assistant director of the Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility at SMU.

Highland Park Presbyterian Church to remember attacks

Highland Park Presbyterian Church will commemorate the 10th anniversary of 9/11 with a special service at 6 p.m. Sept. 11 to give the community an opportunity to celebrate those who lost their lives and pray for the families who survived them.

“Images and emotions from that day will forever live in our hearts and minds,” said the Rev. Ron Scates, senior pastor of the church. “So, as we mark the 10th anniversary of that horrible day in our nation’s history, we believe as Christians it is important to gather in worship together to focus on thanksgiving, remembrance, healing and hope.”

Scates said the University Park Fire Department color guard will present the colors at the beginning of the service, representing fire and police departments everywhere and their services, particularly in times of crisis. The church is at 3821 University Blvd. in Dallas.
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