Finding forgiveness on death row
A Texas man out for revenge after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks kills two men and partially blinds another with a shot to the
face. The survivor, a Muslim man from Bangladesh, and the convicted killer come to terms with each other.
Mark Stroman sits in a visitation cell in a Texas prison in 2002. He went on a shooting rampage in 2001 to seek revenge after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He would tell his victims: "God bless
America." (Brett Coomer, For The Times / June 12, 2002)
They spoke just twice.
The first time was 10 years ago when Mark Stroman, armed with a sawed-off shotgun, pushed through the door of a Dallas gas station and
furiously asked the dark-skinned clerk, Rais Bhuiyan, "Where are you from?"
The second was a brief phone call this summer before Stroman was about to be executed. "I forgive you and I do not hate you," Bhuiyan told
the man who had shot him in the face, blinding him in his right eye.
"Thank you from my heart," Stroman said. "I love you."
After all the commemorations on the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11, there is a story left to tell. The events involving Stroman and Bhuiyan
happened far from the scene of the attacks, but stemmed directly from them. Their story is a counterpoint to much of the narrative of the last
decade, but is nevertheless central to it. It is a story about terror and revenge. But it is also about forgiveness.
Bhuiyan is from
, one of eight children in a deeply religious Muslim family. He served in the Bangladeshi air force. As his family
spread — a brother in Dubai, a sister in Toronto — he took a chance on America. Leaving his wife behind, he moved to New York and studied
computers, then, at 27, went to Texas to help a friend with a gas station.
He arrived in Dallas on May 11, 2001. He had won a U.S. visa lottery that put him on the path to citizenship, and was preparing for his wife to
After Sept. 11, some customers at the gas station grew belligerent. He could tell by how they looked at him, what they said. Another Muslim