ROGERS, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) – Last Independence Day, America looked a lot different. Major cultural shifts and a global pandemic have changed people’s ideas of what the country should be. A family from Syria celebrated America’s status as a symbol of hope while also marking good fortune.
The Alkhatib brothers came from Syria, and Mohamed Alkhatib just graduated Bentonville West High School, while Bassal Alkhatib just moved to the United States from his prior country a month ago. A party at Beaver Lake provided an opportunity for family and friends to come together and recognize what America’s provided for them.
“You are going from Syria to the U.S., and you are gathering with your family,” Bassal Alkhatib said. “That’s the best thing ever, you know?”
In preparation for the July Fourth weekend, the Arkansas Department of Health encouraged Arkansans to follow the same steps medical experts have stipulated for months: wear a mask, and follow social distancing protocol.
“Each family’s taken its own table, and we told everyone, ‘Please bring your masks and all, and bring your own tables, chairs so you don’t have to touch as many things,'” Mohamed Alkhatib said.
The gathering gave the Alkhatib’s extended family and friends a chance to feel human again for the first time in months. Older members of the group donned masks for the majority of the party, while others worked to keep a safe distance from them.
“Most of the people here, they haven’t been out of the house for the whole quarantine,” Mohamed Alkhatib said. “I have two grandparents, and they’ve been super scared.”
Despite the hectic world surrounding them, the Alkhatibs said they’ve never been prouder to live in America.
“Even with all this going on, I came from Syria. Here was heaven compared to what was going on over there,” Mohamad Alkhatib said. “I managed to get through that. It was a war zone, war-torn country. We didn’t have food, water, electricity. It was pretty bad over there, but we still managed to look at the positives.”
This Independence Day was sweeter than any other for the Alkhatibs because of Bassal’s move to America.
“My family moved here in 2014, so I spent the past eight years alone in Syria,” Bassal Alkhatib said. “I am a doctor, and I graduated from medical school in Aleppo. I was waiting to be reunited with my family, and it’s been a month. A dream came true.”