“Growing up in America has been such a blessing,” Yusor Abu-Salha said in a conversation with a former teacher that was recorded by the StoryCorps project last summer. She later added, “we’re all one, one culture.”
The recording gives us a new insight into Abu-Salha, 21, who was killed Tuesday along with her husband, Deah Barakat, 23, and her sister, Razan Abu-Salha, 19, in Chapel Hill, N.C.
NPR will broadcast part of Yusor Abu-Salha’s conversation with her former teacher on Friday’s Morning Edition, as part of its StoryCorps series.
The police say the shootings seem to have been sparked by a parking dispute with a neighbor, who now faces murder charges. But the killing of three young Muslims has also raised suspicions that it might have been a hate crime, as we reported.
In the StoryCorps oral history project, people often record themselves talking with parents and friends about what life has taught them. Some participants speak to former teachers — and that was the case with Yusor Abu-Salha. She recorded a conversation with her former elementary school teacher, Sister Jabeen, of the Al-Iman School in Raleigh, N.C.
An excerpt of their conversation was posted this morning by member station WUNC in Chapel Hill.
Here’s some of what Abu-Salha had to say:
“Growing up in America has been such a blessing. And although in some ways I do stand out, such as the hijab I wear on my head, the head covering, there are still so many ways that I feel so embedded in the fabric that is, you know, our culture.
“And that’s the beautiful thing here, is that it doesn’t matter where you come from. There’s so many different people from so many different places, of different backgrounds and religions — but here we’re all one, one culture. And it’s beautiful to see people of different areas interacting, and being family. Being, you know, one community.”
When her former student asks Sister Jabeen what she would tell the world if she had its attention, she said, “Live in peace.”
Sister Jabeen, who is the principal of Al-Iman, later added, “The world would become such a beautiful place when we respect each other and make this world a place where everybody has the right to live, and we don’t fight over our differences but learn to accept our differences.”
“I love hearing from you,” Abu-Salha told her teacher. “You always have the right thing to say, the right answers.”
The two slain Abu-Salha sisters attended Al-Iman, as did Deah Barakat.
On Thursday, WUNC’s Frank Stasio spoke to Sister Jabeen. She recalled telling Yusor Abu-Salha: “You can outgrow my lap, but you can never outgrow my heart.”
Last night, vigils for the three shooting victims were held in Chapel Hill and other cities.
WUNC reports that Barakat’s older brother, Farris, urged hundreds of people gathered in Chapel Hill to “take the message that my mom wanted to make public and do not fight fire with fire.”