Our emotional connection to life's far-flung triumphs and tragedies becomes numbing after a while -- until something happens close by. That something happened Tuesday evening when Friehiwet Tahir, a manager at Gregory's Deli and Market on the first floor of the Chicago Apparel Center, the Sun-Times' headquarters, was struck and killed by a CTA Red Line train.
Amid controversies over border fences and detention centers, Tahir's story is the one we don't hear often enough. But her story is our story. It's the quintessential immigrant story, whether your family was forced to come here like mine, or clamored to come, like most.
Sun-Timesers looking for their morning coffee fix or a cup of soup for lunch met Tahir's earnest smile and dancing eyes behind the deli counter daily. Her innate shyness was overcome by her obvious love and respect for her job, customers and employees.
That was quite a feat considering the 35-year-old native Ethiopian spoke very little English when she was poached from White Hen Pantry eight years ago. She mastered English and that uniquely American art of looking people in the eye and putting the customer first, always.
In showing up every day and helping her husband, Abraham Alemu, pay for college to become an engineer, Tahir mastered that most beloved of state of being: pursuit of the American Dream.
Read her obituary here: