Charles Sanders sat in the garden where he and Abdul had been meeting every month for a year and stared at the empty skyline. The twin towers were gone and so, it seemed, was a part of him. He and Abdul had never met before that day, yet Abdul had saved his life. He’d led him out through dark, smoke-filled halls, ran with him as the towers collapsed behind them. Abdul was the reason he was alive today, the reason he’d been able to celebrate his son’s third birthday, witness the birth of his second child.
Just thinking about this made the decision he had to make today, even harder.
Three months ago Agent Decker came to his house.
“We need to talk,” he’d said. He showed him a picture of Abdul but called him by another name. “He worked with those who masterminded the attack on the Twin Towers.”
“No way,” he’d said with an unbidden laugh. “You have the wrong man.”
“If you don’t cooperate, you could be marked as a conspirator.”
He let Agent Decker in.
With all the proof the man had, it was clear Abdul had been involved. The only thing he could do was question whether the information was accurate. But then he’d have to question the F.B.I., his own government, one nation under God.
The sun was just coming up over the trees. They never met until lunch. He had a while to think and to pray before Abdul showed up. Abdul had gone to church with them on a few occasions, had shown a sincere interest in wanting to learn about his religion, his faith. Could Agent Decker be right? Why would Abdul save him if he was the cold-blooded killer they made him out to be? Why hadn’t he just let him die?
“He needed you,” Agent Decker had said. “It’s how these people work.”
How these people work, he’d thought. The agent spoke as though Abdul was a machine. Like he had no control over how his life turned out. To say Decker was right would be to say that he, Charlie Sanders, was not able to spot the devil himself. Decker had to be wrong.
Please God, he prayed silently, help me do the right thing.
Twelve o’clock rolled around and Abdul was nowhere to be seen. Charles began to panic. What if Abdul was what Decker said he was? What if he’d gotten wind of what was going to happen? What if he’d gone to his house to hold his family hostage—or worse? Sweat beads actually formed on his forehead, fear gripping him deep and then he saw Abdul headed his way. He was carrying a brown bag and was immediately tackled by a horde of agents. In a second he was cuffed, pulled to his feet and led off, the brown bag confiscated. Charles never even got to say good-bye or to ask why?
* * *
He watched the news alone that night, his wife and kids had gone to visit her mother. His friend Abdul made the national news. His picture and history were laid out like dirty laundry ready to be cleaned. They emphasized his numerous links to terrorists groups and were specific about attacks he’d been involved in. They talked about his family and even showed pictures.
“These people never change,” one agent said in regards to his captive. “They can’t be helped.”
Charlie shook his head discouraged. He’d prayed in the garden that God would help him do the right thing. But now he had a different prayer. He wanted God to show him that he’d done the right thing. He wanted to know that he could trust what God’s word said about how to treat others. Abdul had saved his life. No matter what they said about him, he wanted to believe he shouldn’t look at him any differently. If he couldn’t trust God’s word what could he trust?
The brown bag Abdul had been carrying was shown next. Although Abdul was carrying a pistol in the waistband of his trousers, the brown bag merely contained— the Bible. The only other significant detail was that John 3:16 was book-marked and highlighted.
“How do you know?” Abdul had asked him once. “What makes you think this God of yours truly cares about you, your family. What makes you believe this?”
“He gave his Son, Abdul, his only Son.”
Abdul had grunted. “Maybe one day I’ll think more about that.”
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