I have to admit that I suffer from a bit of prejudice against Islam.  It is not connected to 9/11.  It got its start in 1976.  I had a favorite older cousin, named JoAnn, whom we called just Ann.  She worked for the Foriegn Service and spent several years in Pakistan attached to the US Embassy in Karachi.  Ann was sweet and a bit crazy (pleasantly so) and I adored her.

When I was ten years old, Ann returned to the states with her Fiancé, Don Smith, in tow.  Don was full of funny stories and immediately became a favorite among the younger cousins like myself.  The story of how Don and Ann met hit me in all of the most secretly romantic aspects of my nature.

Pakistan and India were having one of their frequent quarrels.  Ann and some of the embassy staff had gone up onto the roof and were watching bombs dropping from planes in the distance.  Don sat down beside her and started talking.  I no longer remember the funny thing Don said to her that got her attention; but a few months later, they were engaged and back stateside.

Whenever they came home, Ann’s mother, Aunt Tommy (short for Tomasina) would throw a big gathering of our family and once dinner was over, all of us kids would form a circle on the floor to listen to the stories that Don told.

One of the family stories that I still remember was how one snowy winter in Vermont, Ann and Don had a quarrel and Ann decided she was going to leave him.  She took off in the middle of an incipient snowstorm (none of my family has much sense) and went racing off in one of their jeeps.  And a few minutes later Ann drove straight into a snowbank and got stuck.  She used the CB to radio Don.  He went and dug her out of the snowbank.  Kiss and make up time followed.  I’ll never forget the chagrined look on Ann’s face as she told her half of it.  Then Don told his half, concerning what it was like to go racing out in a snow storm to rescue her.  All of us kids were laughing by that point.  The humor was in the way they told it, full of smiles and chuckling.

By that time, Don was working for Rockwell International.  Since he was fluent in Farsi, Don primarily worked in the Middle East.  In 1976 (I think it was either October or November), while I was attending Briarcliff College in NY, Mama called the college and had them pull me out of class.  Don was dead.

He and two other American employees of  Rockwell in Iran, had been cut off on their way to work and gunned down by terrorists.

The Shah gave each of the three widows a huge sum of money (doesn’t really make up for anything) and Ann was instantly wealthy.

Ann went fifteen years before remarrying.  Don was not an easy man to replace in her heart.

That was the beginning of my becoming tolerance challenged toward Islam.