INDIANAPOLIS — The kids felt it first. That day, when the governor declared refugees like them unwelcome, fear pulsed through their schools.
Rama, the 15-year-old, heard it in her classmates’ voices when they blamed Muslims, saw it when they pointed at her headscarf. Rakan, her 13-year-old brother, was caught off guard when a group of boys approached him in the hallway.
“Are you from ISIS?” they asked him. He shook his head and shuffled away.
Like the rest of their family, the two teenagers knew about the terror in Paris the previous Friday — the bombings and gunfire that had left more than 100 people dead. They knew the ISIS had claimed responsibility for the attacks and that a fake Syrian passport had been found among the destruction.
The following Monday evening, when the Batman family heard that Gov. Mike Pence was blocking Syrian refugees from entering Indiana, their small apartment fell silent.
Ten seconds passed. Fifteen, then twenty. Marwan, the father, was the first to speak.
“Call?” he asked in his broken English, holding up a cell phone. “Call?”
Marwan didn’t know the governor’s name and didn’t understand that getting him on the phone would be almost impossible. Over the rims of his glasses, he looked at his wife Lona, at Rama and Rakan, at his two youngest daughters chasing each other up and down the staircase.
If he could just talk to the governor, maybe Marwan could tell his family’s story. Maybe Marwan could help him understand.
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The grant was part of Old National Bank's Tools for Schools campaign.