I wanted to wait to post this when I had some time to actually absorb the reality of what happened last week.
So one of my coworkers now is a guy named Malik. He sits a few cubicles down from me, and I’ve talked to him a few times. I did know awhile back that he was from Libya originally, but we never really talked about it. I felt it might seem insensitive to bring up the present uprising in Libya, in case he happened to be a Gaddaffi supporter.
Last week, around Tuesday afternoon, he got a really important phone call. I could hear him talking excitedly on his phone to someone in his native tongue. He hung up, and I heard him lean back in his chair. I leaned out to see what he was doing, and he was crying.
I thought maybe someone had died, so I inquired if he was okay. Wiping tears from his eyes, he said he was fine, that he was actually weeping for joy. He had just talked to his brother – who he hadn’t seen or heard from for 12 years. He thought his brother (and his family) was dead, and his brother thought he was dead.
12 years ago, Malik was exiled from Libya with his father for a conflict with the Gaddaffi clan. They left under the threat that if they ever returned, they and their remaining family would be killed. His mother died in Libya shortly afterwards, and his father died about three years ago. Malik never thought he’d be able to return to Libya in his lifetime. Or hear from his remaining family over there.
“I can go home,” he said, tears streaming down his face, “I can go home and see my family.”
I asked him when he planned on leaving. Next week if not earlier. So next Thursday, he is going home for the first time in 12 years to see his family that he had never expected to ever see again. He is grateful to the US for any help that made that possible, and for giving him shelter when Gaddaffi exiled him.
I’ve been thinking about this all weekend.