A group of Palestinian students from Ramallah, who shared dreams of studying in the United States, had their aspirations shattered when they were shot and injured in Vermont. Tahseen Aliahmad, Hisham Awartani, and Kinnan Abdalhamid were targeted by a stranger who opened fire while they were taking an evening stroll.
The incident has sent shockwaves across college campuses, raising concerns about Islamophobia and antisemitism. Students at Haverford College, Trinity College, and Brown University, where the trio was studying, now fear for their own safety.
Authorities have charged the assailant with attempted murder, but the motive behind the attack remains unknown.
While the injured students recover, their families go through their own torment. Aliahmad’s aunt, already worried about relatives in Gaza, was devastated to hear about her nephew’s shooting.
Jason Eaton, the accused shooter, confronted the students as they were near Awartani’s grandmother’s home, where they were staying for Thanksgiving.
It is unclear whether the incident was a hate crime, but the hatefulness of the act is undeniable. Awartani, Abdalhamid, and Aliahmad have been friends since their childhood days in Ramallah Friends School, where they developed diverse interests and talents.
The Ramallah Friends School is a place of refuge and learning in the midst of a military occupation. Students like Abdalhamid, Awartani, and Aliahmad had to navigate Israeli checkpoints just to reach their classrooms.
Abdalhamid, who arrived in the United States in 2021, sought safety and opportunities for excellence. At Haverford College, he made friends who shared his experiences of oppression, including a Jewish and Black suitemate. Their bond strengthened until the fateful day of the shooting.
The attack disrupted a shared tradition for the trio, who were celebrating Thanksgiving with Awartani’s relatives. They had enjoyed festivities and moments of joy before the shooting turned their lives upside down. Aliahmad, Awartani, and Abdalhamid are now recovering in a shared hospital room, relying on humor to cope with their pain.
However, the severity of their injuries is apparent. Aliahmad coughs blood, feeling like he’s being stabbed each time; Awartani may never walk again due to a lodged bullet near his spine.
The shooting has also raised concerns about safety and security on campuses, especially among Arab and Muslim communities. Students fear discrimination and harassment, leading some to question the administration’s response.
Vigils have been held in solidarity with the injured students, but some feel their issues have not been taken seriously.
As the healing process begins in Vermont, Abdalhamid has been discharged from the hospital and reunited with his mother. His return to Haverford College remains uncertain, as he still suffers from fear and trauma.
Aliahmad and Awartani continue to share a hospital room, both physically and emotionally scarred by the incident. While their injuries are severe, their spirits remain resilient.