StoryCorps: A Hateful Attack Led To A Forever Friendship After a Somali American woman was attacked for speaking Swahili, the attacker's sister reached out to see if she was OK. The two women recently returned to StoryCorps to talk about their bond.

A Hateful Attack Led To An Unexpected Forever Friendship

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NOEL KING, HOST:

It's time now for StoryCorps, and as the new year approaches, we have a story about a new start. It begins in 2015. Asma Jama was eating at a restaurant in Coon Rapids, Minn. She was wearing a hijab and talking Swahili with her family. A customer in the next booth demanded that she speak English and then hit Asma in the face with a beer mug. Later, the attacker's sister, Dawn Sahr, reached out to Asma. They met for the first time at StoryCorps, and here's part of their conversation, which we first aired in 2017.

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DAWN SAHR: Do you feel like you can't speak Swahili in public anymore?

ASMA JAMA: Yes, because I realize I don't belong. I have to prove myself every single day, and - makes me feel like I had to give up a lot of who I was.

SAHR: I'm going to pray that you can eventually become that person you used to be.

JAMA: I will get there. It's going to take me a while. But for you to stand up for somebody you don't know and to say that what she did was unacceptable - that meant the world to me.

SAHR: I will support you in any possible way I can. You know, they say blood's thicker than water, and you stand behind your family no matter what. Well, you got to draw a line somewhere. And you're my line.

JAMA: Thank you.

KING: Asma Jama and Dawn Sahr remained friends, and they recently sat down for another StoryCorps interview.

JAMA: Do you feel like our conversation changed you in any way?

SAHR: Changed me in many, many ways. Asma, what I have learned from you, from day one, was you're strong. And I think that's what gave me the strength to do what I did. I believed in supporting you, and everybody I loved and everybody around me wouldn't have anything to do with me. It took three years, but you know what? They came to me. I stood my ground, and I gained a lot of respect from my family.

JAMA: Eventually, I hope you and your sister Jodie can be in a better place. You never know - with time, she might realize she's on the wrong side of history.

SAHR: Can I ask you something?

JAMA: Yes.

SAHR: Me being in your life - does that keep bad memories for you from that?

JAMA: No. Sitting down with you actually was very, very good for me. It kind of gave me a positive light to a bad situation. When I talk about you, people always tell me, why are you smiling? I don't even know that I'm smiling. It's just because, in the middle of the worst time of my life, you taught me that, sometimes, humanity is what we need.

SAHR: I don't see you just as a friend.

JAMA: Yes.

SAHR: I mean, I see you as a sister. You are such a big part of my life. I really think I would lose a piece of who I am if I lost you as a friend.

JAMA: We're never going to lose each other...

SAHR: No.

JAMA: ...As long as we're alive.

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KING: That was Dawn Sahr and Asma Jama in St. Paul, Minn. To hear more from them, get the StoryCorps podcast at npr.org.

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