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THE STORE AMERICA FORGOT



I will never forget the look on his face for as long as I live. I am not sure if it reminded me of the looks the children had on their faces at the orphanage, when they were about to be beaten with a leather strap, on Saturday mornings. Maybe it was the look of horror I saw on one inmates face as he was about to be shanked [stabbed] in the shower, when I spent a little time in a federal prison. Either way it is a look I will never forget.

In spite of my past and my irresponsibility's as a young teenage boy; I have always been proud to call myself an American. Even though raised in a Jacksonville, Florida orphanage and treated as though I was nothing more than a piece of crap, I still consider myself very lucky.

It was several weeks after 9-11 when I drove to United Community Bank. Before entering in bank parking lot I noticed that I was almost out of gas. I made a fast left and drove into a convenience store which sold gas. I got out of my truck and began filling my tank. When full, I replaced the gas cap and walked into the store to pay what I owed. As I walked in the door I saw a young Arabic teenager staring at me with a look of fear on his face that even upset me.

"Is everything all right?" I asked him.

"Everything is fine, sir."

I walked to the counter, pulled out my wallet and paid for the gas. No one said a word. I heard something behind me and turned around. Standing in the back doorway was another Arabic man, about fifty years of age. He had the same look of fear on his face.

"Is he with you?" I asked the young man, pointing toward the older gentleman.

"Yes, sir. He is my father," he replied.

"Are you sure everything is all right?" I asked him again.

The boy hesitated and replied "Not good here since the 9-11. No business at all. No one likes us anymore." He pointed toward a large glass window which was broken and had been taped with duct tape. I watched as he reached under the counter and held up a large, red brick which he told me had been used to break the window.

Over the next few weeks I drove the few extra miles to purchase my gas at their store, as well as bread and milk. Each time I came I noticed there was less and less food items on the shelves.

"What the hell is going on here?" I asked the father one day.

"No good business. No one will sell us product."

"Are you telling me the vendors will not sell you food?"

"No more gas for us after today the gas company say," replied the young boy.

I don't know what came over me at that moment but I was so embarrassed. This was not the America that I had always known. Americans were a free, good, kind and forgiving people. A nation that would defend itself, defeat the enemy and then help them rebuild and become free themselves.

"Where are you from?"

"I born here. I am American," said the young boy, as he came from behind the counter, took me by the arm and led me over to several papers taped to the wall. I looked as he pointed at a birth certificate and a hand written sign that read "We are Americans and we love America. This is our home." Without saying a word, I walked over to the large broken window and place both my hands on the glass. I stood there looking out at the America I had always know as a kind, honest, friendly, caring and forgiving country.

Almost in tears and too embarrassed to turn around, I said, "I'm so sorry and I apologize."

Without looking them in the face I walked out of the store and returned to my home. Several days later, never wanting to see that store again I drove to the bank and closed my account. For some reason I looked at the Amoco Station as I drove out of the bank parking lot. There was a "CLOSED" sign taped to the large broken window.

These two Americans were even courteous enough to tell their customers that they were now "CLOSED," even though they had been run out of town.

I am very proud to be an American and I try and hold high the values my country was built upon. But today I am a little ashamed because for a moment a few Americas forgot the love and kindness their county carries in her heart for others.

Roger Dean Kiser, Author



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