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IT'S OUR TURN: I know firsthand what Muslims are capable of

We were raising our four sons in Lexington, Kentucky.

The oldest was in high school, the youngest still in elementary school and our twins were in their last year of middle school, which meant a class trip.

That year, the destination was Washington, D.C., a chance to experience landmarks and memorials, government and history, art and architecture.

I don't remember what the cost of the trip was but it wasn't free. Our boys attended public schools for middle and high school but our youngest was still in the Catholic elementary all the boys had attended. Also not free.

I don't remember what else was going on in our lives but bottom line, money was tight for a family of six. The trip was expensive and with twins, of course, doubly expensive.

We probably could have paid for one of the boys, but two was going to be tough.

We decided the twins would not go. It's not like they would be the only students not to go, but it was disappointing.

They told their friends and accepted the situation. They understood.

Then we were contacted by the school. Someone had offered to pay for both our boys to go on the trip. And they wished to remain anonymous.

Of course, we were very grateful, but also curious. Who would be so kind and generous?

Our best guess was the parents of one of their friends — a big, gregarious kid who liked sports.

He was the class nominee for the the school district's Young Achievers program, which recognized him as a good role model for other students and for showing good citizenship.

And he was a Muslim.

The fact that a Muslim family might have paid for our trip is not what is important. But knowing they were the kind of family that could and would do such a thing is what was important.

My wife and I did not know these parents well, chatting only occasionally at school functions.

But it was clear they shared a lot of the same values we did. Wanting our boys to read and learn outside of school; show kindness, courtesy and respect for others in a school where multiple languages were spoken.

We had moved from North Dakota to Kentucky just before the school year started in 2001. A few weeks later, the World Trade Center towers would come crashing down in the Sept. 11 attacks.

The whole nation learned quickly the attacks were carried out by al-Qaeda, a terrorist group associated with the Muslim faith.

I didn't know much about Islam at the time. I would learn more in subsequent news stories.

I attended a discussion led by local Muslims about their practices and beliefs.

I would learn much more from "Cookie." As the night editor at the newspaper, I often worked with an intern from the University of Kentucky.

One of these interns had grown up in Lexington, the daughter of the Imam, the Muslim religious leader in town.

She wore a hijab, a headscarf worn by many Muslims. She was outspoken and a pretty good young reporter.

When she would make her routine trip to look through the reports at the police station in the evenings, she would often bring me back a cookie from the Subway next door. So I started calling her "Cookie."

I would like to think she learned some things from me, and I learned some things from her.

So while the Sept. 11 attacks taught us that Muslims are capable of great cruelty, associating with Muslims taught me that they are capable of great kindness.

I am no expert on religion or immigration policy, but I know what Muslims are capable of.

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