Tourists near the U.S. Capitol building in Washington D.C., Nov. 18, 2015. (J. Taboh/VOA)
Tourists near the U.S. Capitol building in Washington D.C., Nov. 18, 2015. (J. Taboh/VOA)

WASHINGTON - What are you giving thanks for? Family? Friends? Health? Safety? Not working?

VOA wanted to find out so we sent a reporter to Washington's National Mall to ask visitors and locals what they were going to think about over the holiday.

Thoughts of the November 13 Paris attacks colored many people's thoughts.

Zahid Sheikh, who was born in Pakistan, has been living in the U.S. for the past 35 years. Like many Americans, he'll be celebrating Thanksgiving with his family and friends, and "praying for America and the wonderful things which I have achieved in America."

Sheikh said he works at the Department of Homeland Security "in a senior position," and is thankful to America because of the opportunities it's provided him.

He said he owes much of his success to a Jewish family who pretty much adopted him.

"[They] made me their son and they helped me, they advised me; I'm very much thankful to Jewish people," Sheikh said. "People say people discriminate here; I don't think so because if you study hard, America will give you the opportunity.”

Reflecting on the attacks in Paris, he said he had not experienced any anti-Muslim feelings in America.

"Because Americans understand that Islam is not a terrorist religion, but these terrorists, they have their own version of religion," he said.

Sheikh said he condemns terrorists. "The whole civilized world must get together and get rid of them," he added. "There should be peace and peace and peace.”

Liz Mcamulty, visiting from England, said she loves the U.S. and travels here often to visit family members. She's planning to travel from Washington to New York, where she'll celebrate Thanksgiving.

Peace and freedom

“I'm thankful for the peace and the freedom that I feel I have to walk around," Mcamulty said as she stood in full view of the U.S. Capitol.

"I'm really thankful for the fact that there are so many people in the Islamic community who are speaking up against the terror that's facing the globe at the moment," she added.

Mcamulty said she's also thankful for the fact that "the vast majority of people on the planet are good and kind people, and we need to be united whatever our nationality, religion, gender, whatever, in fighting against the terror of the very tiny minority who really want to split apart people from the Islamic community.”

Katie Freeman, visiting with her husband and two young children from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, said she was thankful for her children "and being able to raise them in a very free environment and teach them how to be grateful for what we have."

Chesea Thompson, who was on her lunch break, said what she's most grateful for is “the blessing of just being born and living in this country where it’s safe to sleep at night.”