At first it seemed as though custom, not Cupid, had united Mohammad Salahuddin Chowdhury and his wife, Baraheen Ashrafi, both of whom were born in Bangladesh. "It was an arranged marriage," Ashrafi explains. The pair, whose union was set up by their families, met for the first time at their 1992 wedding in their homeland. "It took time to get to know him," says Ashrafi, 28, but true love slowly blossomed. "He was very understanding, very nice."
After joining her husband in New York City nine years ago (he came to the city in the late 1980s), Ashrafi, a homemaker, embraced her new life while honoring her Muslim faith. They prayed together each morning, including on Sept. 11, shortly before Chowdhury left their apartment in Woodside, Queens, for his job at the Windows on the World restaurant in the Trade Center. Still reeling just two days after the tragedy, Ashrafi gave birth to a son, naming him Farqad, which means "star." In the months since, she has struggled to regain her footing in the face of occasionally derisive words and actions from strangers. One day a group of teens spotted her in traditional Muslim dress and jeered, "Let's go for a jihad."
Hardest of all has been explaining Chowdhury's death to their 6-year-old daughter Fahina. "He's in the stars," Ashrafi told her. The little girl responded by asking for binoculars. "I want to see my dad," she said. < PREVIOUS: Dena Smagala
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