“True American Hero” Honored for Risking Life During Racist Attack on Indian Immigrants18 Apr 2017
Our nation is renowned for embracing the idea that dreams can come true through hard work and perseverance, regardless of the circumstances one is born into. This simple yet radical notion has become the foundation of our collective identity, and it has made the United States a beacon of hope for immigrants all over the world willing to leave their native homes behind and achieve their full potential on our shores. And while the contributions of immigrants have undeniably helped to mold our nation into a global superpower, they are still left to grapple with the undercurrent of fear and xenophobia that have always been present here.
In late February, nationalistic paranoia mutated into violence and tragedy when two Indian immigrants, Srinivas Kuchibhotla and Alok Madasani, were victims of a racially motivated attack in an Olathe, Kansas bar. The shooting was swift and brutal. Mr. Madasani was wounded, and Mr. Kuchibhotla was killed. But amidst the carnage and horror of the attack, rose a selfless hero: fellow bar patron, Ian Grillot, displayed incredible courage, intervening on behalf of the immigrants, resulting in Mr. Grillot being shot, as well. IndiansAmericans across the U.S. were shaken, but they responded generously, joined by others, who offered donations and words of comfort and encouragement. And, in honor of his bravery and sacrifice, the IndianAmerican community in Houston, Texas presented Grillot with a $100,000 check and labeled him a “true American hero.” [See Suspect In Kansas Bar Shooting of Indians Apparently Thought They Were Iranians, by Samantha Schmidt, The Washington Post, 28.Feb.2017]
Grillot was honored at the annual Indian House gala in Houston and was given the check by Indian Ambassador to the United States, Navtej Sarna. While speaking at the event, an emotional Grillot – who now refers to Madasani “my new best friend,” reflected, “I don’t know if I could’ve lived with myself if I wouldn’t have stopped or attempted to stop the shooter because that would’ve been completely devastating. I do now have a very powerful message and if I can help empower people and spread hope and love, then why not?” Jiten Agarwal, an influential member of the Houston IndianAmerican community and chair of the annual gala, noted, “It is not every day that one meets a genuine hero, a person who risks his life for another, and takes a bullet for a complete stranger.” [See Indian-Americans Raise $100,000 To Help The Man Who Tried To Save Indian Killed In Kansas, by Gopi, India Times, 26.Ma.2017; and Kansas Shooting: Hero Ian Grillot Says Indian He Saved is His New Best Friend, by Dhrubo Jyoti, Hindustan Times; 15.Mar.2017.]
The devastated Kuchibhotla family is mourning the senseless loss of a young life brimming with potential, and an entire nation has been left wondering if the American dream is still a reality for its daughters and sons. Americans are again left to reflect on how bigotry and hatred remain such a distinct part of our culture, even in the 21st century. But the actions of Ian Grillot may serve as a beacon of hope for understanding and compassion in these turbulent times. He certainly moved a community shaken by violence and hatred to respond with generosity and appreciation.
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