It was one of those fantastically beautiful Florida days in May of 2007. Asma Sidani and her two beautiful sons, one five and the other eleven thought it would be a perfect time for some Taco Bell.
Seated at a table in the Tampa Bay restaurant the two children awaited the return of their mother as she placed their order. Little did they realize that the stranger seated close by, 60-year-old Thomas Plaisted, hated them simply because they were Muslim.
It didn’t take long for the bile that often accompanies such hatred to rise within Plaisted. Unleashing a torrent of racial expletives and curse words upon the two children, Plaisted then spat food into the face of the youngest and began shoving the oldest.
Shouting that he wanted to break their necks, Plaisted was confronted by patrons and workers in the restaurant and forced to flee. However, the hateful onslaught would scar the two little ones for the rest of their lives.
Incongruously, once the police arrived, they refused to take a report furthering the outrage of both the mother and the onlookers and doing nothing to assuage the terrified youth.
In a society such as ours where people from all corners of the Earth converge and dwell and work together it is inconceivable that such things continue to occur. Often we are oblivious to the deleterious acts of the crazed and the depraved. Caught up in the hustle and bustle of our own daily routines, we have a tendency to take freedom, and the acceptance of others for granted.
The Sidani children were guilty of nothing more than being children born into a Muslim family. Anticipating a favorite meal, they expected nothing more than a happy repast with their mother. Yet, they were robbed of their innocence and their security by a thief so filled with venomous hatred as to rival a rattler on a hot August night.
Thomas Plaisted was, of all things, a school bus driver for the local district. Everyday he drove young students, of every color and ethnicity, to and from their educational institutes. His actions resulted in his firing and in his being charged with a hate crime.
The failure of the police in this matter, resulted in an apology and an assurance that such negligence would not happen again. However, the very fact that it occurred at all leaves one wondering how widespread such blatant negligence might be – and if it was negligence at all.
The children are scheduled to give depositions next week. In a civilized community of humanity, children are generally valued at a higher level. We have an innate sense of protecting those who have not yet matured into adulthood. In this case, we can only hope that the children will be able to work through the trauma that Plaisted inflicted upon their young psyches.
While the actions of Plaisted are despicable, they are not without precedence, however. All to often, hate crimes against others, even the young, are being committed. They leave behind not only the physical evidence but an emotional scarring that can and, often does, last a lifetime.