Four Aberdeen residents, all immigrants to this country, were interviewed for the Aberdeen University Civic Symphony performance of American Visions, Ellis Island Dreamers in February 2018.
Each person shared the story of their journey to the United States in the post-Ellis Island era of immigration. They came from different parts of the world, and took separate and unique paths to get here, yet they all now call Aberdeen 'home'. Below is one of these stories:
"My father lost his home the first time in 1948. Then again when he was late returning one day. He was saved from where he was left, in the cactus, by Egyptian Bedouins who pulled out his thorns and brought him to safety. He made his way, eventually, to Qatar where he became a teacher and it was there that I, the second of his children, was born.
Education is very important in our culture. You can do without food, clothes, anything, but refugees want to secure, for their kids, education – it is the most important thing. So all of us children went to college. I came to the United States to Denver for school. It is there that I met my wife. She was working in insurance. I got a work visa after I left school and then a Green Card. I became a citizen in 1992.
My wife and I have two children, now 28 and 25, and they graduated from college. My brothers and sisters all still live in Qatar and are college graduates. My sisters as well as my brothers have good careers. Women have been attending Qatar University since 1983 and work in all fields just as men do. Palestinians have been sending teachers throughout the Arab world since the early 1900’s. I have about 15 of my family members including my wife and son who are in the educational system. Actually, I am the only one out of all eight of us who did not graduate. But I have done okay. I have a good job here in Aberdeen working for 3M.
My wife, children and I lived in Qatar for five years when the kids were very little so that they could get to know my family. We have been in the United States ever since. We know some of our family and visit them from time to time. My father was one of 8, and his siblings are in many countries. But there are many members of my family, cousins that are here and there, that we do not know. Some family we have lost track of. My parents and brothers and sisters and their families are residents of Qatar, but never citizens.
I am a citizen of the United States. My home is the United States. I feel like an American and always have since I first set foot here as a teen-aged college student. I have always felt at home here. How do I know it is home? “Home” is how you get treated. When I first arrived, the signs in the airport in New York said, “Marhaba,” in Arabic, which means “Welcome.”"