Rashed Mian has been covering local news for the Long Island Press since 2011. He graduated from Hofstra University in 2010 where he studied print journalism. Rashed, the staff's multimedia reporter, covers daily news for the web, shoots/edits feature videos and writes about civil liberties. He loves Afghan food and sports. Rashed is also a caffeine freak. Email: [email protected] Twitter: rashedmian
An 11-year-old boy and his mother were injured Sunday afternoon after the child fell from an escalator at Roosevelt Field, Nassau County police said.
According to police, the boy was hanging onto the railing of the escalator at Neiman Marcus as it ascended. Once the escalator reached the top floor, the boy fell approximately 30 feet, striking his mother, police said.
They were both transported to a local hospital, where the boy was listed in serious condition with a head injury, police said. His 33-year-old mom suffered an injury to her foot, police said.
Police did not identify either the mother or the child.
t 76, Peter Kaisen was the proverbial grandfather. He’d given all the love he had to his grandkids, and he’d make sure his three children, all girls, were well cared for.
But Kaisen also welcomed the soothing pleasures brought on by brief moments of tranquility. Whether it was his famous on-the-whim strolls through the local Home Depot or hours-long sessions tinkering in his garage, Kaisen appreciated those often-fleeting moments in life that few people take time to embrace.
It wasn’t that Kaisen was standoffish or unhappy. In truth, the U.S. Navy veteran saw no reason to wallow in self pity or invite unnecessary attention. He didn’t want to burden other people with his problems. Instead, he delighted in spending time with his wife, three children and seven grandchildren, or swinging by 7-Eleven so he could pick up a coffee for a friend battling a rare cancer associated with the U.S. military’s use of Agent Orange in Vietnam.
More often than not, Kaisen would grab the keys to his Toyota, saunter through his family’s Islip home, and despite a stubbornly achy back from a decades-old auto crash, hop inside, and veer off. A lot of times, Kaisen’s abrupt departures meant he was making the 19-mile journey to the Northport Veteran Affair’s Medical Center, where he sought out-of-pocket treatment for that ailing back, and enjoyed the services they offered to veterans like himself.
“I’m going out,” Kaisen would say, if he offered anything at all. His family was fine with it. That was Pete.
Kaisen lived with his wife Joan, whom he adored. The couple got married on New Year’s Eve more than a half-century ago. They had three kids together—two before Kaisen’s devastating on-duty injury as a member of the Long Beach Police Department. (Kaisen served so long ago that the current police commissioner could not find Kaisen’s name in a police database.) About 20 years ago, the couple became intrigued with the prospects of a quiet life in Florida, so they followed legions of New Yorkers who migrate south. Most never return—or if they do, it’s only for the glorious summer months on LI. But when the Kaisens left Long Island they left a large piece of themselves back home.
Unfulfilled, they returned north.
Through it all, Kaisen never changed. He was a quiet soul, yet he enjoyed adrenaline-packed NASCAR races on TV, which belied his mellow nature. He continued tending to the most minor of chores around the house, like picking up the kitty litter, and was famously unpretentious.
One of the few photos the Kaisen family has of the family patriarch is from this past Christmas: Kaisen, wearing a flannel button-down shirt, his eyes focused intently on the camera, showcasing a beaming smile.
Kaisen was fun and “bouncy” that day, remembers his longtime friend Tom Farley, 69, of Islip, who shared the snapshots of the beloved grandfather’s life included in this story with the Press on behalf of his family in the hopes these treasured tidbits might help others.
Whenever Kaisen was really happy, “The smile goes up about another half-inch,” Farley adds, laughing through the phone.
That was Pete.
Last Sunday, Kaisen yet again left the house without warning. As if a ninja in the night, he got into his beloved Toyota and drove away. He didn’t say a word to Joan; she assumed he was in the garage.
Then the phone rang.
“Your husband is very ill,” a caller from the Northport VAMC told Joan, according to Farley, who is serving as the family’s unofficial spokesperson as they grieve the tragedy that has befallen their family. “Bring someone to drive for you.”
Veterans Affairs police were the first to arrive on the scene, followed by Suffolk County police, which was alerted to the hospital at 12:07 p.m.
Joan got to the emergency room, but nobody was there to greet her.
“An old guy told her to knock on the door,” Farley recalls.
A hospital employee emerged.
“Is he gone?” Joan asked.
Stricken by shock and the sadness of losing her husband, Joan somehow summoned the wherewithal to call Farley, and urged him to find a seat.
Farley had met Kaisen about 40 years ago. They both served in the military—Farley in the Army and Kaisen in the Navy—but they only met after their wives became acquainted. Farley was the guy who’d talk nonstop, while Kaisen preferred to listen. Kaisen was seven year’s his elder, but it didn’t matter. They hit it off.
“He was a vet and I was a vet,” explains Farley, who served in Vietnam. It was as simple as that.
From the hospital, Joan told Farley everything that she knew—that Kaisen went to the VA seeking help. Then he killed himself.
“Your husband is very ill, bring someone to drive you.”
The details that have emerged regarding Kaisen’s final moments are sparse, and grim.
According to an explosive report in The New York Times, Kaisen was turned away at the emergency room—the only building open on Sundays, according to Farley—then walked to his Toyota and turned a .38 Smith & Wesson on himself.
A hospital employee discovered Kaisen’s body a short distance from his car, near a wooded area. As far as the family knows, no one witnessed Kaisen take his own life.
One apparent whistleblower was so distressed that Kaisen was allegedly turned away from the emergency room that they told the Times, “Someone dropped the ball.”
The VAMC says there’s no evidence Kaisen ever made it to the emergency room.
Farley, who is a true believer in the VA’s mission, is skeptical that Kaisen would drive all the way to the Northport VAMC only to end his life.
“He went there for help,” he insists.
Kaisens’ family believes he was suffering from some form of depression, but there’s no indication he was receiving treatment for mental health. Apparently, he appeared lethargic. Moving a little slower. But nobody thought anything of it—after all, Kaisen was 76 and he had been struggling through a nagging back injury and the associated effects of a deluge of painkillers for decades.
In the ’60s Kaisen joined the Long Beach Police Department and had been on the job for nine years when a speeding driver traveling the wrong way on a one-way street T-boned his police vehicle. Kaisen survived, but he would spend the rest of his days battling a debilitating back injury. Kaisen’s career as a police officer ended abruptly. He retired, earned workman’s comp and spent his years raising a family.
The on-duty crash not only relieved Kaisen of a career, but it meant one of his other joys in life was over.
On weekends, Kaisen would take the family sedan to the drag racing track in Riverhead, pay the $10 entry fee, and go for a spin.
“That was his thing,” Farley says with a laugh.
That was Pete.
The family has gone through the tough part of explaining to Kaisen’s seven grandchildren, who range from 10 to 18 years old, what happened to “Pop.”
Farley told them what their grandfather did may make life better for the next veteran who goes to any VA hospital around the country desperate for help.
“He went there for help.”
Farley credits the VA for saving his own life. He is fond of saying that “90 percent” of VA hospital employees are good people.
“He met a 10-percenter,” he says of his friend, if the whistleblower account is true.
The family simply wants to uncover the truth.
“Nobody is on a head-hunting mission,” Farley says. “We just don’t want it to happen again.”
Kaisen’s story, which the family is monitoring through the media, has already infused itself into national politics. Some observers are viewing the incident as yet another indictment of the VA health system. And Reps. Peter King (R-Seaford) and Steve Israel (D-Dix Hills) wasted no time sending a joint letter to the heads of U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs and the FBI urging a “thorough investigation.”
For the people who never met Kaisen, his long life is being condensed into a few brief moments. He’s now the military veteran who died seeking help. Another vet to succumb to suicide. Another vet failed by the American people and the bureaucracy that runs the very department served to advocate and protect them. Another vet we mourn.
But to the family, Kaisen is more than that. And they paid tribute to their hero in the best way they knew how: with brief words for a man who was few of them.
“Devoted husband, beloved father, grandfather, cherished friend and brother.”
Peter Kaisen, the 76-year-old veteran found dead in the parking lot of the Northport Veterans Affairs Medical Center this weekend, was a doting family man who enjoyed watching NASCAR on television and playing the role of grandfather.
“He was a family man,” his 51-year-old son-in-law Brian Henke told the Press in a phone interview Thursday. “Loved NASCAR, loved animals, [loved] his three daughters and seven grandchildren.”
“He was very good,” Henke said of his father-in-law, a retired police officer who was injured in the line of duty. “Very caring for his children and grandchildren.”
But as with many U.S. military veterans, Kaisen had his own struggles. He was a regular patient at the Northport VAMC, and the family believes Kaisen may have been suffering from depression, Henke said.
Kaisen’s last visit to the VA came this past weekend. He died in the parking lot of a hospital where many veterans like himself have sought much-needed help.
According to a report in The New York Times, two anonymous Northport VA hospital workers said Kaisen was turned away Sunday afternoon as he sought treatment at the medical center’s emergency room.
Kaisen then went outside to his car and, according to the report, committed suicide.
Asked whether the family has been in touch with the VA hospital in Northport, Henke said, “We haven’t talked to anybody.”
The family has no evidence to support the allegations from two anonymous sources quoted by the Times that Kaisen was turned away from the emergency room when he tried to seek treatment.
One anonymous source told the Times that Kaisen “went to the E.R. and was denied service.”
Another worker interviewed by the paper was critical of the Northport VAMC’s apparent handling of Kaisen’s case.
“Someone dropped the ball,” the hospital staffer was quoted as saying. “They should not have turned him away.”
The hospital released a statement through a spokesman Thursday afternoon that expressed sorrow for Kaisen’s demise but did not acknowledge the cause of death.
“The employees here at Northport feel this loss deeply and extend their thoughts and prayers to all those impacted by this tragedy,” the statement said. “We are committed to addressing the needs of all Veterans who are in crisis, and want Veterans and their loved ones to know we stand ready to help whenever possible.”
Suffolk County Police Acting Commissioner Justin Meyers said the department was alerted to the incident at 12:07 p.m. Kaisen’s lifeless body was found near his Toyota when officers arrived.
The FBI is now investigating the incident.
“He was a family man. Loved NASCAR, loved animals, [loved] his three daughters and seven grandchildren.”
Reps. Peter King (R-Seaford) and Steve Israel (D-Dix Hills) on Thursday wrote a joint letter to the heads of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner and the FBI demanding a thorough and transparent investigation.
“It is critical that our nation’s veterans feel they can trust the services provided by their VA medical facilities, and that their health and well-being is of the utmost priority,” the letter states. “This trust must extend not only to medical treatment provided in operating rooms and primary care facilities, but also to the mental health services provided by all VA facilities.
“We demand that the FBI conduct a thorough, expeditious and transparent investigation into this incident, and we demand that the VA is transparent and fully cooperative in every aspect of the FBI’s investigation,” it continues. “Only a thorough and transparent report on the cause of this incident will ensure that the VA maintains the confidence of our veterans who have sacrificed so much for our nation.”
Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) has reached out to the Northport VA hospital’s director, according to his spokeswoman, but it was unclear if the congressman gleaned any new information from the conversation.
Kaisen’s tragic death has prompted an outpouring of support from veterans and civilians alike.
As for how Kaisen would have liked to be remembered, Henke said, “He didn’t want a lot known about him. He was a quiet person.”
Summing up how many people feel after hearing of Kaisen’s passing, Henke said, “We need better care for our U.S. veterans.”
Kaisen’s body, according to a funeral home’s posting, will be cremated.
A Long Island military veteran committed suicide Sunday afternoon in the parking lot of the Northport Veterans Affairs Medical Center after allegedly being denied service, according to a report in The New York Times.
The veteran was identified as Peter Kaisen of Islip. He was 76 years old.
The Times, which was the first to report the story of his apparent suicide, quoted an anonymous hospital worker who claimed Kaisen “went to the E.R. and was denied service.”
“And then he went to his car and shot himself,” the Northport VA worker told the Times.
According to the report, “[Kaisen] had been frustrated that he was unable to see an emergency room physician for reasons related to his mental health.”
“Someone dropped the ball,” one worker was quoted as saying. “They should not have turned him away.”
One of the workers noted that a psychologist is not typically available at all times at the emergency room. However, the Northport VAMC’s site claims “There is always a caring mental health doctor available 24/7 in our Emergency Room.”
Suffolk County Police Assistant Commissioner Justin Meyers said the department was notified about the incident at 12:07 p.m. on Sunday.
Responding officers found Kaisen dead outside his Toyota, Meyers said.
“Because this incident took place on federal property,” he added, “the FBI is now leading the investigation.”
An FBI spokeswoman confirmed the agency’s involvement but said “there’s nothing criminal at this time.” She declined to say whether or not the death was related to suicide.
In a statement through spokesman Todd Goodman, the Northport VAMC, said: “There are no words to adequately convey our heartfelt sympathy to the family, friends and neighbors regarding the death of a 76 year-old Veteran found on the grounds of Northport VAMC.
“The employees here at Northport feel this loss deeply and extend their thoughts and prayers to all those impacted by this tragedy,” the statement continued. “We are committed to addressing the needs of all Veterans who are in crisis, and want Veterans and their loved ones to know we stand ready to help whenever possible. The Veterans Crisis Line is a resource that connects Veterans in crisis with qualified, caring VA responders through a confidential toll-free hotline, online chat, or text. Veterans and their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 and press 1, chat online, or send a text message to 838255 to receive confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”
Goodman said the Northport VAMC would not be conducting any interviews with media outlets due to the sensitive nature of the incident.
In the Times report, he was quoted as saying there “was no indication that [Kaisen] presented to the E.R. prior to the incident.”
Jennifer DiSiena, a spokeswoman for Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), said the congressman is aware of the incident and is “trying to confirm details.”
“Our office has been monitoring the situation closely to try to piece everything together,” DiSiena said in a statement.
The VA released a study on veteran suicides in July which found that an average of 20 veterans each day take their own lives. Out of those daily suicide-related deaths, six were VA patients, according to the study, which used figures from 2014. In total, 41,425 US adults died by suicide that year, and 18 percent were identified as military veterans.
The tragic mental health crisis impacting veterans was documented in a 2015 report published by the Annals of Epidemeology, which concluded: “Veterans exhibit significantly higher suicide risk compared with the US general population.”
An announcement on the Moloney Family Funeral Homes website notes that Kaisen died on Sunday, Aug. 21.
“Devoted husband, beloved father, grandfather, cherished friend and brother,” reads the brief announcement.
Condolences poured in on the site, as people paid respects to the military veteran.
“We salute you sir,” reads just one of many tributes. “Your sacrifice for our country represents a staggering debt that can never be repaid. We pray for your family, your friends, and your soul. God bless you.”
“I read what happened to you,” another noted. “Your death is not in vain. Through your tragedy, may the bureaucrats change policies to help others that were in your situation.”
“As a Vet I would like to thank Mr Kaisen for his service and his family for their sacrifice,” a man who goes by Ed commented. “What a terrible shame it is when a veteran or anyone takes their life.”
The VA is no stranger to controversy.
Just two years ago, the Veterans Affairs medical system came under intense scrutiny when it was revealed that several veterans who were patients at a VA hospital in Phoenix died after prolonged waiting periods for treatment. Eric Shinseki, the VA Secretary at the time, resigned about a month after the scandal erupted.
The Press broke a story last year about the Northport VA’s controversial detention of former Marine-turned Occupy Wall Street activist Shamar Thomas, who was ironically held against his will at the facility in an attempt to help him. His confinement raised awareness about the many challenges facing his fellow servicemen and women as they return home from the battlefield.
Inside Tuesday’s paper, former Mets great Dwight “Doc” Gooden denied he was suffering from drug addiction and instead lashed out at ex-teammate Darryl Strawberry for instigating a very public intervention through the media.
“I have to try something before he’s dead,” Strawberry told the News‘ respected baseball columnist John Harper. “He’s a complete junkie-addict. I have been trying behind the scenes to talk to him and get him to go for help, but he won’t listen.”
Public intervention ‘not helpful’
Gooden’s apparent drug problem, if that’s what is indeed ailing him, is now playing out in full view, for the entire world to see. And Strawberry has not held back. Neither has Gooden’s friend, Janice Roots, who told the News that the dynamic ex-pitcher had “morphed into a cocaine monster.”
For the last few days, Gooden’s personal issues have been subject to daily scrutiny.
It all started when Gooden failed to appear at a WFAN radio station event with Strawberry last week. When pressed by a radio caller about Gooden’s absence, Strawberry said he feared the worst for Gooden.
But how effective are media-fueled interventions when someone is potentially deep in the throes of addiction?
“It’s not helpful,” Reynolds tells the Press. “I think generally it perpetuates the shame and stigma that goes along with addiction.
“It drives people underground. It makes it harder for them to get help rather than easier,” he continues. “If Darryl or anyone else really cared about Doc Gooden, they’d pick up the phone and have a private conversation rather than speculating and calling him out in public.”
In the interview with the Daily News that sparked this public feud between the two former teammates from the Mets’ hard-partying 1986 World Series championship team, Strawberry stressed that he reached out to Gooden prior to going public. Apparently that was ineffective.
Reynolds insists public shaming, even as a last ditch effort, is not the right move.
“I don’t think public pressure plays a role in someone’s willingness to get treatment,” he says. “I think it is quiet, kind, consistent—consistent being a key word—support.”
“This is happening between two former ballplayers, [but] these are conversations that are happening across Long Island every day in more homes than you can ever imagine,” Reynolds adds. “The reality is you can apply that gentle pressure, you can begin to institute consequences and those kinds of things, but we found consistent care and support over a period of time brings that person closer to treatment in a way that nothing else does.”
Still, Reynolds understands the motives.
“I think it’s well-intentioned,” Reynolds says of Strawberry’s attempt to help his friend through the media. “People understand that the consequences for untreated addiction include a whole number of things, not the least of which is death. And I think very often people will try one or two means to help that person get into treatment.
“If that fails, you begin pulling out all the stops, and my sense is that’s probably what’s happened here,” he continues. “But again nobody really knows if Doc Gooden is struggling with addiction or something else. It’s really hard to figure out what’s going on—and quite frankly, that’s why these should be private, not public conversations.”
Reynolds knows what addiction looks like. He’s seen it—in the eyes of struggling addicts and in doting family members working hard to get their loved ones the help they need. And it’s often shame, he says, that keeps people away from treatment centers.
“This is a disease that still carries an incredible amount of shame and stigma—and that shame and stigma is what frequently keeps people out of treatment,” Reynolds says. “Headlines like that perpetuate the shame and stigma. I don’t know if we do that for a lot of other diseases, but when it comes to diseases above the neck, everybody is more than happy to pile on.”
‘I don’t do cocaine’
Anthony Rizzuto, executive director of Families in Support of Treatment, an LI-based nonprofit that helps families of loved ones deal with addiction, echoes Reynolds’ sentiment—up to a point.
“Human beings are individuals and everybody reacts to things differently. When you deal with addiction, it is not an exact science,” Rizzuto tells the Press. “What might work for this patient completely has an adverse effect for the next patient.
“I think that guilt and shame is not a good way to go, but there are times when that’s been effective in helping people to be able to realize what dire straights they’re in, and, you know, suffer some of the consequences,” he adds.
Rizzuto says he’s trained in a model of intervention that’s opposed to utilizing blame and guilt to persuade an addict to accept help. Not until all methods are considered does Rizzuto believe this last ditch effort is warranted.
“This wouldn’t be the way I would lead,” he says. “This would be after failed attempts using different methods. And I have to believe that that’s happened already.”
Gooden, who demonstrated Hall of Fame potential upon making it to the Big Leagues with the Mets in ’84, first sought help for cocaine addiction in ’87—his fifth season in the majors. Gooden put together a remarkable run with the Mets during his first six years with the team, making four All-Star games and posting a sub-3.00 ERA four times. His best year came in 1985, when he won 24 games and struck out 268 batters and gave up an average of 1.53 runs per game.
That Hall of Fame-worthy stretch, however, also included run-ins with the law and a stint at a drug treatment center.
In a statement late Monday, Gooden said, “I don’t do cocaine and have not for years.” He went on to criticize Strawberry, another former Met who battled drug addiction, for going public.
“I had always been supportive of Darryl, during his best and worst days,” Gooden said. “I recall the time he was in prison, and I was there for him. I recall the times he struggled with his own addiction, and I was there for him then, too. I had never failed to be there for Darryl Strawberry.
“Last Thursday night, I was unable to attend an event at WFAN with Darryl,” he continued. “There were plenty of times when Darryl was unable to attend events as well. No one, most of all me, made any big deal out of [Strawberry’s] absence, nor should they have had.”
(Featured photo: Dwight Gooden during Mets spring training in 1986. Credit: Jeff Marquis)
Welcome to the 21st century, Long Island Rail Road.
The LIRR announced Monday that its mobile ticket app—MTA eTix—has been released system-wide and is now available for download on iPhone and Android smartphones.
The free app allows riders to purchase digital tickets on all 11 LIRR branches prior to visiting a station.
It also means that Long Islanders equipped with the app will no longer have to race to a ticket booth before catching the train.
Riders have a variety of ticket-purchasing options to choose from via the app, including one-way, round-trip and monthly tickets. To get started, users must create an account and link it to a credit or a debit card. After purchasing the ticket, riders can activate the ticket in order for it to be validated by an LIRR employee on board a train. Multiple tickets can be purchased by a single rider using the app.
Last month Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that LIRR e-tickets would be available on all railroad lines by summer’s end. At the time, the technology was only available on the Port Washington branch.
“This e-ticket system for the railroads is where the economy is now,” Cuomo said back in July. “You take out your device. You scan it, and you pay for something. That’s how it works, and that’s how it’s going to work on the railroads.”
Cuomo also joked how the Metropolitan Transit Authority once used chalkboards to display train times. His point: the slow-churning wheels of the MTA bureaucracy is making progress.
“It’s bringing the railroads to the same level of technology as most services, which is an extraordinary upgrade in the case of the MTA,” Cuomo said.
LIRR customers who prefer paper tickets won’t have to worry about ticket booths going the way of antenna TVs since the agency will keep ticket machines operational.
Along with a full rollout on the LIRR, the app is also now available on all Metro-North branches.
Talat Hamdani has advocated for Muslim Americans since her son died trying to save the lives of his fellow New Yorkers on Sept. 11. Inspired to serve her country after the horrific attacks, Nasrin Ahmad’s daughter decided that she wanted to be a federal prosecutor. Isma Chaudhry broke the glass ceiling to become the Islamic Center of Long Island’s first female president. Daisy Khan empowers Muslim women across the world.
These are the faces of American Muslims.
The week-long spat between Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and the family of a slain U.S. Muslim soldier has inspired Muslim Americans to speak out.
The discussion prompted the Twitter hashtag “CanYouHearMeNow” among Muslim women, and, in a way, shifted the focus of the often-Islamophobic discussion about Muslim Americans away from terror and instead to their contributions to American society.
“Go to any hospital…see how many (female) doctors we have. Go to school. There are female Muslim American teachers there,” said Nasrin Ahmad, Hempstead’s town clerk, and the first person from South Asia to be elected in New York State. “Go anywhere—engineers, lawyers, my own child.”
The role of Muslim Americans—and Muslim American women, in particular—in American culture took center stage last week after Trump questioned why Ghazala Khan, the mother of a U.S. soldier who died in Iraq in 2004, had remained silent as her husband, Khizr Khan, spoke passionately onstage at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
The implication being that Ghazala Khan’s religion, and her husband’s presence, somehow precluded her from speaking out publicly.
“Here is my answer to Donald Trump: Because without saying a thing, all the world, all America, felt my pain,” Ghazala Khan wrote in a widely-read Washington Post Op-Ed last weekend. “I am a Gold Star mother. Whoever saw me felt me in their heart.”
The confrontation between Trump and the Khans, which has played out on cable television and on the Internet for the last week, is remarkable, because despite bipartisan condemnations regarding Trump’s proposed ban of foreign Muslims from entering the United States, no one has effectively humanized Muslim Americans.
“He was really speaking about not only his son’s sacrifice and clarifying this misconception that Muslims are just a national security threat, he also was in fact saying that Muslims are very patriotic,” Daisy Khan, founder of Women’s Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equality (WISE), which serves to amplify the voice of Muslim women across the globe, told the Press. “I felt by just straightening out the record on that was a very, very powerful moment.”
The role Muslim American women play in shaping America has also taken on greater significance.
Two years ago, Isma Chaudhry became the first woman to serve as president of the Islamic Center of Long Island in Westbury. Before taking office, she had devoted her life to interfaith outreach and helping people better understand Islamic culture and traditions.
“I am the president of a mosque, which is not just a women’s mosque, it’s cross-ethnicity,” Chaudhry told the Press. “We have family members who are congregants. We have people who are very orthodox who are members of this mosque, and people who are not orthodox who have all kinds of religious views that are members of this mosque. And for them to take my leadership with grace and respect, that shows that that religion doesn’t really put any constraints on how far and how high women can go.”
Before she became the clerk of Hempstead Town in 2013, Nasrin Ahmad, a Republican, was a stay-at-home mom-turned-PTA president and founder of what was then called the Human Dignity Committee at her local school district. She soon started working part-time for the Town of Hempstead.
“Your heart jumps a beat when you see your son’s picture in the screen in front of you or behind you—you gasp.”
Her own children have also devoted themselves to this country, she said. After graduating law school, her daughter decided she wanted to be a federal prosecutor. One of her sons is a volunteer EMT.
“She decided to go for public service because…she knew that Muslims were getting a bad rap, and she wanted to be a federal prosecutor. She wanted to protect this country,” Ahmad said of her daughter, who felt the pull of public service after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
Ahmad, who was born in Uganda and raised in London, hopes her own life serves as an inspiration for young Muslim Americans.
“I do not hide that I’m an American Muslim female,” Ahmad told the Press. “I hope that my day-to-day life and being out there and showing who I am does educate people.”
Like the Khans, Talat Hamdani’s advocacy was borne out of tragedy.
Her son, Salman, an NYPD cadet, was killed along with nearly 3,000 other Americans when the World Trade Towers came crashing down on Sept. 11. Salman had taken the No. 7 Manhattan-bound train into the city that day. Instead of heading to work, he rushed toward the Twin Towers. In the early days following the attack, he was erroneously considered a person of interest.
Hamdani can relate to the paralyzing grief the Khans live with when they talk about their son.
“Your heart jumps a beat when you see your son’s picture in the screen in front of you or behind you—you gasp,” she told the Press.
Fighting for her son, first to have his name cleared and later to receive recognition for his heroism, has helped ease the pain.
“His sacrifice has put me on a platform: ‘Mama, go advocate for the community,'” she said, as if it’s her son’s voice still carrying her through each day.
Hamdani fights for all Muslim Americans, she said, and she’s always willing to answer the call—just like Salman.
“The women of Islam have the same right as everyone,” she said. “Islam does not suppress women—women have the same rights as a man.”
A poised Hillary Clinton officially accepted the Democratic nomination for president Thursday during a sprawling speech steeped in history, as she became the first woman from a major party to be nominated for the position.
Clinton shared an emotional embrace with her daughter Chelsea Clinton, whom introduced her to the crowd just after 10 p.m. In her remarks, Chelsea portrayed Clinton as a doting mother and grandmother who was always there for her in her time of need. It was the sort of personal touch some observers suggested had been missing from her campaign.
Clinton, the former first lady, U.S. Secretary of State, and U.S. Senator from New York, spoke for about an hour as she outlined why the American public should trust her to sit in the Oval Office. Her speech also served as a stinging rebuke of her Republican competitor Donald Trump, who she cast as woefully unfit to be president.
“America is once again at a moment of reckoning,” said Clinton, as she spoke about American patriots in Philadelphia more than 200 years ago, who, despite their differences, banded together to “stand up to a King.”
“Powerful forces are threatening to pull us apart,” she added. “Bonds of trust and respect are fraying.”
Speaking of her rival, Clinton ridiculed the reality TV star and real estate tycoon for having thin skin when provoked.
“Imagine him in the Oval Office facing a real crisis,” Clinton told the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. “A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons.”
Clinton also used the moment to reach out to Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) supporters—saying, “Your cause is our cause”—and acknowledging that when it comes to public service, “the ‘service’ part has always come easier.”
That’s just a taste of what happened Thursday during the closing day at the DNC.
As we say goodbye—thankfully—to convention season, here are four takeaways from Day 4 at the DNC.
Clinton became the first woman from a major U.S. political party to be nominated for president, an achievement that wasn’t lost on her Thursday night.
“Standing here as my mother’s daughter, and my daughter’s mother, I’m so happy this day has come,” she said. “Happy for grandmothers and little girls and everyone in between.”
“Happy for boys and men, too—because when any barrier falls in America, for anyone, it clears the way for everyone,” Clinton continued. “When there are no ceilings, the sky’s the limit. So let’s keep going, until every one of the 161 million women and girls across America has the opportunity she deserves.”
Once criticized by Trump for using the “Woman Card,” Clinton embraced the comment.
“In America, if you can dream it, you should be able to build it,” she said, while explaining that small businesses need a boost. “We’re going to help you balance family and work. And you know what, if fighting for affordable child care and paid family leave is playing the ‘Woman Card,’ then deal me in!”
Clinton is not the first woman to be a presidential nominee. Most recently, Green Party candidate Jill Stein ran in 2012 and is the party’s candidate again for this election.
Still, the former chief U.S. diplomat’s nomination has served as an inspiration for countless women.
Clinton accepts limitations
The Democratic nominee prodded Trump for suggesting during his convention speech that he alone would cure all of America’s ills.
One of his major claims last week in Cleveland was that he’d rid American streets of crime.
“Don’t believe anyone who says: ‘I alone can fix it,’” Clinton told the crowd Thursday.
“Really? I alone can fix it? Isn’t he forgetting troops on the front lines? Police officers and firefighters who run toward danger? Doctors and nurses who care for us? Teachers who change lives?”
Clinton was making the point that running a country isn’t a job for one person—even a president.
“None of us can raise a family, build a business, heal a community, or lift a country totally alone,” she said. “America needs every one of us to lend our energy, our talents, our ambition to making our nation better and stronger.”
One of the most powerful moments of the convention did not belong to one of the A-list politicians that took the stage over the course of four days, but to Khizr Khan, the father of a fallen Muslim U.S. soldier.
Khan’s role was clear, given Trump’s proposals over the course of the primary and now the presidential campaign. Trump has called for foreign Muslims to be banned from the United States, suggested Muslims be placed in a database and tracked, and called for surveillance of mosques in the country.
Khan’s speech had the crowd in Philadelphia on its feet as he honored his son and lamented that his child would never be able to live out his dream of fighting for his country if policies Trump has proposed were in place when he emigrated here.
Captain Humayun Khan was killed in Iraq in 2004 after he ordered his soldiers to back away from an oncoming vehicle filled with explosives. While they took cover, Khan approached the car and lost his life when it exploded.
“If it was up to Donald Trump, he never would have been in America,” Khan said. “Donald Trump consistently smears the character of Muslims. He disrespects other minorities, women, judges; even his own party leadership.”
“Donald Trump, you’re asking Americans to trust you with their future,” an emotional Khan continued. “Let me ask you: Have you even read the United States constitution?” Khan then pulled out a pocket-sized copy from his suit jacket, prompting cheers from the crowd.
“I will gladly lend you my copy,” he told Trump.
Khan wasn’t done.
“Have you ever been to Arlington Cemetery? Go look at the graves of the brave patriots who died defending the United States of America. You will see all faiths, genders and ethnicities.”
In his most stinging rebuke, Khan said: “You have sacrificed nothing and no one.”
The speech prompted enthusiastic cheers in the arena and online.
Khizr Khan's speech is so moving. Really the standout moment of the convention.
It’s clear that after all the reconciliation, teaming with Sanders to pen a progressive Democratic platform and continuous nods to the Vermont Senator during the course of four days, Clinton is still trying to court his loyal supporters.
Clinton formally thanked Sanders for inspiring millions to get involved in the political process. And she wasn’t shy about appealing to those key voters, mostly young people, on a national stage.
“To all of your supporters here and around the country: I want you to know, I’ve heard you,” she claimed. “Your cause is our cause. Our country needs your ideas, energy, and passion. That’s the only way we can turn our progressive platform into real change for America. We wrote it together–now let’s go out there and make it happen together.”
There were reports of Sanders’ supporters openly protesting Clinton’s speech verbally or through silent demonstrations.
A Sanders supporter from Long Island who spoke to the Press following Day 2 of the convention said she wouldn’t vote for Clinton on Election Day. Why? The way she framed it, there are many people who still don’t trust her. She also met many protesters in Philadelphia who still can’t bring themselves to vote for her. But there are a large number of Sanders primary voters who have said they’ll be voting for Clinton, even if it’s simply an anti-Trump vote.
Clinton has 100 days left in the campaign to convince them to back her. That’s a lot of time. But that also gives Trump ample opportunity to reach out to Independents who voted for Sanders and try to sway them, too.
Whatever the case, Election Day can’t come soon enough.
(Featured photo: Adam Schultz for Hillary for America/flickr)