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Family Grieves for Muslim Couple Killed in Terrorist Attack - 2001-10-05


It's a story being played out in homes across the country and the world.

Nearly 6,000 people died in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, including people from at least 60 different countries. They were men and women with ordinary lives and loves, irreplaceable to the families and friends left behind.

Shakila Yasmin came to the United States from Bangladesh when she was just 16. Her parents, Sharif Chowdhury and Showkatara Sharif, wanted their children to get a good education. Shakila and her younger brother, Fahim, loved America as soon as they arrived. Shakila was a good student at high school in Arlington, Virginia and then at Virginia Commonwealth University, where she studied information sciences.

A few years ago at a friend's wedding, Shakila Yasmin met a young man, also a Muslim from Bangladesh. His name was Nurul Haque Miah. They fell in love. Her parents approved, and Shakila and Nurul became engaged in the traditional Bangladeshi way. She was welcomed into his family, as her fiancee was embraced by hers. They were married in April 2000 at a traditional Bangladeshi ceremony, attended by the couple's many friends and family members.

Immediately after the wedding, Shakila moved to New York with her husband. Both had jobs at the insurance firm Marsh & McLennan, at the World Trade Center. Nurul worked as an audiovisual director on the 93rd floor of the North Tower. Shakila worked on the computer help desk, on the 97th floor. They had been married for a year and five months on September 11, 2001. Shakila's parents say the couple was very happy, and their home videos seem to say that, too.

Shakila's father was at his office when he heard the World Trade Center had been hit by an airplane. He turned on the television and saw the skyscraper where his daughter worked.

"Smoke was coming out of the building," he says. "I run down to my room and call her and her office phone is not replying. I dial her cell phone. It was not working. Then I dial her residence, her home number. The message was on. I put message, 'Shakila, we are very worried, when you come home, please call us.'"

But no one heard from Shakila Yasmin or her husband that morning, or afterwards. The first airplane hit the North Tower near their offices. Shakila's family hope their loved ones died quickly and without pain.

They want punishment for the terrorists, but not vengeance. The hijackers' brand of Islam is not true Islam, say her father and brother. "War is not the solution," Sharif Chowdhury says. "War destroys civilization. It does not kill the terrorists. But the terrorists should be punished, those who were responsible should be punished. That is our desire."

Shakila's brother Fahim agrees, adding, "I don't know why Islam is mixed with terrorism, because Islam doesn't say to go kill innocent people. And it kind of makes me angry knowing the fact that another Muslim killed another Muslim. They should have known better, they should have known there are other Muslims in that building, there are other innocent people in that building."

In Bangladeshi tradition, mourning and prayer continue for 40 nights. The extended Chowdhury family arrives each evening to pray together for two hours, and to eat. There is nothing else to be done. Shakila and her husband are gone.

Only a few weeks ago, the first weekend in September, her parents and brother visited the couple in New York. They drove out of town, to the country north of the city. They picked apples, the first time they had all seen an apple orchard. It was a beautiful day, and the family was together, and they all imagined there would be many more such days together.

Shakila's brother Fahim says one memory makes him cry. "During her wedding, when she was leaving for New York," he recalled, "she just grabbed on to me, and she cried her eyes out. She was just in tears. That's the only thing that pops up whenever I close my eyes...I was holding her and she was just crying. That's the only time I think I cried that much."

Video, Photos by Craig Fitzpatrick, VOA-TV

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