The blue band on my right wrist is a constant reminder. The date stamped on it - 07.13.05 - alerts me that, swift and unlikely as it seems, a year has passed. And the initials stamped on the other side, TIE, provide a clue of what was lost.
It was one year ago Thursday that Tariq Fischer, Imran Kahn and Muhammad "Ebad" Hasan - T-I-E - were killed in a car crash on Interstate 20, on their way to drop off Hasan at the Atlanta airport. The BMW driven by 19-year-old Tariq hydroplaned on the wet pavement in Warren County, skidded across the median and was struck by an oncoming truck.
Tariq, a college freshman and the son of my doctor, had been working on an informal "internship" with The News-Times at the time of his death, and had written one last story that had not yet been published. We never ran it, instead passing it along to his family.
Boy, he was a good writer. If there had been little else good about Tariq - and there was a vast amount of good in him - just the loss of his writing talents is cause for deep mourning.
I didn't know the other young men, both of whom were 20-year-old college students. Imran was Tariq's fellow Lakeside High graduate, and Ebad was from York, Pa. But just being friends of Tariq is a pretty high recommendation.
What's really been remarkable is that, in the year since the crash, there has been much more to remember the three than just blue wristbands.
First, the Georgia Department of Transportation finally got around to installing cable barriers along the interstate to help prevent the type of "crossover" crash that led to the boys' deaths. The cable stops short of the site where the three were killed, but at least the 20 or so miles of cable - including its longest stretch, through Columbia County - is a start.
Tariq's family and friends made their marks in his memory, too. The family donated more than $1 million in Tariq's name to Swarthmore College, in Pennsylvania, for such things as helping to establish an Islamic Studies program.
At Patriots Park, Tariq's family and members of his former soccer team dedicated a tree in his memory.
Those blue bands are still for sale. There isn't much to one by itself, but together the sales of the bands have been raising money for the Panacea Fund, a project to create an interfaith recreation center in Augusta.
Using the initials on those bands, Augusta's Islamic Center now offers a TIE scholarship for Muslims seeking technical education.
The bands are available for $5.50, including shipping, from www.panacea fund.org.
These boys, their memories preserved in initials on blue bands and in smiling, archived photos, to me are the face of Islam. That's in spite of our war abroad and terrorism at home conditioning us to equate "Muslim" with "radical."
The memory of Tariq hopping into my office for the first time, on crutches from a soccer injury, won't let me do that. His mom told me a few weeks ago that her faith teaches that death comes to those whose job on earth is done; perhaps that was one of Tariq's tasks - to teach tolerance to a hardhead like me.
We can argue about details of faith. We can, and should, debate the relative merits and faults of our chosen religions. And if we are faithful to what we say we believe, we should be prepared to assert that our own religion is best - otherwise, why believe at all?
ut no matter what our faith, we can agree that our entire community suffered a great loss one year ago, on July 13, 2005. And we can remember to thank the families of Tariq, Imran and Ebad for sharing them with us while they were here.
Blessed be this TIE that binds.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 706-863-6165, extension 106.)
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