The East Valley Tribune

To commemorate the four-year anniversary of the murder of Balbir Sodhi, Arizona’s East Valley Tribune ran a front page article about his story and our film Divided We Fall.

On a Saturday in 2001, less than two weeks after the S ept. 11 terrorist attacks, thousands gathered at Phoenix Civic Plaza to honor a man most had never met.

(Gaurav Singh, a relative of Balbir Singh Sodhi, kneels by a memorial outside the Mesa Star Convenience store where Sodhi was shot and killed in September 2001. Photo by Tim Hacker, Tribune)

Balbir Singh Sodhi, a turbaned Sikh from India, was gunned down a week earlier while planting flowers outside his Mesa convenience store. He was the first person killed nationwide in a post-Sept. 11 hate crime. His killer, Frank Roque, who is now on death row, shouted, “I am a patriot” while being arrested.

Jews, Muslims, Christians and Sikhs alike poured out their hearts at the memorial for the man who had been shot for looking like a Muslim. The mood was sorrowful, but those who talked to the media had hope for peace and unity.

I feel like he was the sacrificial lamb to bring us together,” one woman said.

Four years later, however, Sikhs as well as Muslim and Arab Americans, still face regular discrimination in the Valley and across the nation.

They are stared at in grocery stores and airports. They are given the finger while driving Valley streets. Sodhi’s brother, Rana Sodhi, even is told to “go back to Iraq” while working at the same store where his brother was killed.

A feature-length documentary due out early next year examines why some Americans became so violent and aggressive against Sikhs and other groups after Sept. 11. It tells the stories of the people changed forever by that violence, including Balbir Singh Sodhi’s family.

To the film’s creator Valarie Kaur, “Divided We Fall: Americans in the Aftermath” is essentially the story of two young adults on the most important journey of their lives.

That journey started as Kaur sat in her bedroom for three days after learning of Sodhi’s Sept. 15, 2001, murder.

Read on… click here.