Let’s call him Jimmy. He is 31, more or less, from the town in which his father and mother were born. As a youngster, he knew nearly everyone within a mile or so of his home, and several who lived farther away. He rode his bicycle around the town, the way some kids where I live ride their bikes around Gettysburg.
“Sometimes we stacked concrete blocks in an alley, to hold up the end of a two-by-ten board,” he said. “Then we raced our bikes to see who could jump the longest.”
“I usually won,” the now father of four boasts.
Jimmy graduated high school, attended a technical school, and eventually landed a job repairing airplane electronics. He married Beth, and the couple set about making a family — three girls and a boy, so far – for the grandparents to spoil. Jimmy was certain his son would go to college and learn to design the airplanes that would carry future travelers farther and faster — maybe into space.
Life was good, until a few years ago. At first, it just seemed as though crime had escalated, from merely robbing to shooting and killing. What started as a war of words became gunfire and burials. Local police were overwhelmed, or joined the bandits, and soon the federal government moved in to silence the rebels. Jimmy, Beth and the kids became effectively prisoners in their home, going out only when absolutely necessary.
But eventually, the War Against Crime became simply War. Federal forces had the heavy artillery, and used it to destroy buildings that had stood for at least decades, some for centuries, to deny those who opposed the government places to hide. Unfortunately, one of those buildings was Jimmy’s home.
When the tanks came to his street, Jimmy was at work. School had been closed – a response to students staying home in droves – and Beth had taken the children to visit a friend a few streets away. Jimmy arrived home to find his wife sobbing, her children gathered closely, in what was left of their home. They rummaged through the rubble, grabbed a few things, and left Aleppo, the town in which they once thought they would live for generations to come.
Jimmy and Beth are American names for Adnan and Amena. They are fictional characters in either case, but their plight, as we see every night on television, is real. They are among an estimated 9 million Syrian refugees who have fled their bombed out homes since March 2011, seeking a place in which to raise their children in some semblance of safety, asking sanctuary from nations which, so far, remain apart from the carnage.
Some objectors to the influx say allowing all those Muslims into this country increases our risk of jihadi attack.
“We don’t want another Boston Marathon bombing situation,” Congressman Peter T. King, Republican, of New York, said recently.
He is correct; we do not. But as I watch the evening news, I see a majority of those escapees appearing to be middle class citizens who, like most of us, simply want a safe place to raise their children.
There have been some offers of help organized in the Keystone State. In Lancaster County, arrangements continue to be made to support Syrian families.
And the Charity Navigator (www.charitynavigator.org) lists, and grades, organizations to which we can send some token of our friendship and willingness to assist.
We make and sell a large portion of the weapons used in the world’s conflicts. The least we could do is help give respite to those we help force from their homes.