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Moving forward, thinking back

September 10, 2003

Most Americans have their private memories associated with that fall morning when terrorism descended, altering a city skyline, a military stronghold, a parcel of farmland, and the national ethos. But for some people more than others, the date represents a stark divider between disparate lives: one lived before Sept. 11, 2001, and one lived since.

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Last year, the Monitor sought out a handful of those most directly affected by the events of that day, chronicling their Sept. 11 experiences and their first 12 months of recovery.

Today, with another year gone by, we revisit those individuals. Their stories, updated, offer evidence of further healing, and of areas where more progress remains to be made.

- Editors

'Now it is so different'

When Cameran Sadeq speaks of his life now, a brightness enlivens his Kurdish-accented speech.

He shows no fatigue, despite having just returned home, at 9 p.m., from a 10-hour shift as a cook at a local pizza joint in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Instead, Mr. Sadeq seems to revel in his industry. His 60-hour work weeks are a means to a life that he has so desperately wanted for more than a decade now - since the Iraqi refugee first fled the terror campaigns that Saddam Hussein waged against his people.

Now, for the first time, Sadeq can see that life within his grasp - with his job, a car, and a baby on the way.

It is an almost complete reversal from his life of one year ago, when his words rasped with frustration and anger toward the United States.

He had come to America seeking safety from Mr. Hussein, gaining refugee status. Instead, he said last year, the 4-1/2 months he spent in a federal detention center after being caught up in the post-Sept. 11 antiterror roundup "destroyed my life."

As he sat behind bars for weeks after he was cleared by the FBI, a trucking job vanished. So, too, did his car, and his clothes and furniture - tossed out by the landlord of his Detroit apartment.

All he had left was his wife - a woman he had met long ago in a Syrian refugee camp, lost, then located in Winnipeg years later through a friend. They had married only weeks before he was detained, and when he was eventually freed he abandoned any hope of a life in America and joined her in Canada. Vowing never to return to the US, he arrived in Winnipeg with the clothes on his back, a $10 bill, and thousands of dollars in debt.

"Now it is so different," he says.

The sense of injustice that colored every phrase a year ago has been replaced by the excitement of expectation. With his working papers in order, he has a job that has filled him with hope. He has all new furniture for the apartment. He has a computer with an Internet connection and a 1995 Chevy Cavalier. More than anything, he once again has pride. He has whittled his debts from more than $7,000 to about $2,000, with some help from Monitor readers who sent him $1,600 in unsolicited donations.

"My English is not that much good, so I don't know what to say to them," he says. "But I so much appreciate that."

His views of America are perhaps more conflicted now. He is grateful that the US has ousted Hussein. But, he adds, "it is not nice that there is no government. People are killing each other; stealing, breaking, and there is no answer." Likewise, he doesn't reject the idea of returning to America. If he did, though, he says he would sue the government to get back the money he lost while in detention.

Today, though, his thoughts are elsewhere. Sadeq has already started looking at furniture for the baby, and he's considering a move to Calgary, where the Kurdish population is larger. But that's a year or two down the road. For now, "I'm continuing the life," he says warmly, and "I am so, so, so, so happy."

- Mark Sappenfield

An activist parent

Who would she be now if her husband hadn't died on that plane? Not a single mother of five, says Sue Mladenik. Not alone at night when the kids are asleep.