StoryCorps: Siblings Reflect On Brother's Post-9/11 Death Two Sikh men lost their brother in a violent hate crime following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. At StoryCorps, they reflect on his life and how they were treated after the terrorist attacks.
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'People Saw Only A Turban And A Beard': Reflecting On A Post-Sept. 11 Death

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'People Saw Only A Turban And A Beard': Reflecting On A Post-Sept. 11 Death

'People Saw Only A Turban And A Beard': Reflecting On A Post-Sept. 11 Death

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

It's time now for StoryCorps. And today, we remember a man who was killed in one of the country's first hate crime murders after September 11. Just a few days after the attacks, Balbir Singh Sodhi was outside the gas station he owned in Mesa, Ariz. Balbir was Sikh and wore a turban. A man assumed he was Muslim and shot and killed him in retaliation for 9/11. At StoryCorps, his brothers Rana and Harjit sat down to remember him.

RANA SODHI: When we came here in the United States, he make friend very quick.

HARJIT SODHI: I remember when Balbir and me, we opened the gas station. I saw he gave the free candies to children, free drinks. And some people did not have enough money. He said, pay me tomorrow.

R. SODHI: He's kind of a special person. When 9/11 happened, Balbir called me and told me, turn on the TV because our country get attacked.

H. SODHI: He said, I'd like to donate my blood.

R. SODHI: But immediately, they start showing the bin Laden picture in the TV. And people saw only a turban and a beard. People yelled to us using F-word and asking to go back to your country. And after that, even our neighborhood, people start talking, you know, you guys need to very careful.

H. SODHI: People said, can you take your turban off?

R. SODHI: But I say, this is part of my religion. I can't take off my turban. After 9/11, a lot of hate crime happen, and Balbir was the first. On September 15, Balbir was outside working with a landscaper to give them direction where they can plant flowers.

H. SODHI: And somebody shot Balbir. He fired six shot and five hit my brother. Somebody took my best person, my best brother.

R. SODHI: In his funeral, people come from all over the world. And, you know, that make you feel better, especially when you're immigrant and you feel like, you know, you're not alone. The person who killed my brother, I talked to him in 2016. And he said that if he die and go to the God, only thing he want to do is see my brother and say sorry to him. You know, Balbir's death teaches love and peace. And I decided this is my mission of my life.

H. SODHI: His death was so sad, but I have still his memory. And I proud of my brother.

MARTIN: That's Harjit and Rana Sodhi in Mesa, Ariz., remembering their brother Balbir Singh Sodhi, who was murdered after 9/11. The shooter is currently serving a life sentence. This StoryCorps interview will be archived at the Library of Congress.

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