How My Aunt’s Hijab Saved My Entire Family’s Life

This is my Aunts passport photo. This photo is a symbol of my Aunts bravery & love for her hijab that saved my family’s life.

In 1979 my grandfather made the decision to leave behind their home in Syria & to move and start a new life the U.S. The plan was that my grandfather would come to California first & then my grandmother would follow along with their 7 children.

Their American Airlines flight #191 reservations include a stop in New York then a connection in Chicago before finally arriving in California. They landed in NY first. All immigrants first had to apply for a green card before their next destination.

My Aunt Hala had recently put on the hijab. They asked my aunt to remove her hijab for the photo & she said NO. They consistently informed her that she would not be able to move or go to their next flight until she took this photo but she insisted on her rights.

By now my grandmother was impatient, having flown half way across the globe, & spending close to their life savings on these tickets, she did not want to miss the next flight out to California. My grandmother pleaded & told her to remove it & to do what the immigration officers told her to do, but my aunt continued to refuse.

They called her into the back and she told them It dosnt matter how many people you call in, I will not remove my hijab for this photo. After the officers called their supervisors & 3 brutal hours later, they finally released my aunt and allowed her to keep her hijab on for the photo.

However, by then it was too late, the entire family had missed their connecting flight and they had to purchase new plane tickets & stay over night in New York. Furious & upset, my grandmother lectured her the whole flight through.

By the time they finally arrived to LAX California my grandfather greeted them with the biggest hug & was in tears. He kept repeating “Hamdulilah you’re alive! hamdulilah you’re alive!” And they were like well yeah why wouldn’t we be?? He said, “The original flight you were supposed to get on crashed, and all 271 passengers died.” They were all in shock; everyone was brought to tears.