I’ve written extensively about the military and the Stepson in The Corps. But true heroism comes in all shapes and sizes and isn’t limited to police officers and firemen. In November 2007 Readers Digest captured a few stories of heroism that, not being a RD reader myself, I missed.
Take for example the story of Moezeldin Elmostafa, a cab driver in Durham North Carolina who immigrated to the US from Sudan in 1999. Shortly after midnight on March 14, 2006 Elmostafa picked up two college boys, took them to an ATM and a drive thru, then delivered them both to Duke University’s West campus. After a decent tip from the boys, he thought nothing more of the ride until a month later when he was contacted by one of the boy’s lawyer. Reade Seligmann and two other Duke students had been accused of raping a dancer at a party. At the time of the alleged crime Seligmann had claimed that he was in Elmostafa’s taxi.
Even though he didn’t want to get involved, and feared that his involvement in a criminal case would jeopardize his chances for citizenship, Elmostafa imagined how he would have felt had his son been falsely accused. “I will testify,” he said. “I will stand up and tell the whole truth.” Elmostafa swore out an affidavit testifying to Seligmann’s whereabouts that night, showed his phone bill with a call from Seligmann’s phone to back up Seligmann’s story and was interviewed by the case detectives.
His reward? Elmostafa was jailed two weeks later on a two year old misdemeanor charge of larceny for driving a woman to a store, waiting for her while she shopped and driving her home. It turns out that she wasn’t shopping: she was shoplifting. The case had been settled soon after the charges were drawn up, but that didn’t stop Durham DA Mike Nifong from resurrecting the charge to pressure Elmostafa to change his story about the boys. Elmostafa didn’t roll over: he hired his own attorney and faced down the charges three months later in court, where he was acquitted.
But Elmostafa stuck by his story and testified for the defense. The boys were acquitted of all charges as the case fell apart, and Durham’s District Attorney was disbarred in June 2007.
Elmostafa could have taken the easy route for himself and simply not gotten involved. Had he not done so nothing bad would have happened to him, although the chances are good that three innocent young men would be behind bars today. Even though he was scared – and his fear was based on reality judging by the actions of Mike Nifong – Elmostafa showed true bravery, proving Rickenbacker’s adage that “It ain’t courage if you ain’t scared.”
Elmostafa is the kind of immigrant that makes America great, and the sooner he gets his citizenship, the better. He was voted “2008 Hero of the Year” by an online Reader’s Digest poll and it’s clear to me that he deserves the honor.