Amy Mastrocinque of Long Beach had stopped at a doughnut shop on her way to work Monday morning when she overheard a conversation about the newly imposed temporary ban on travel from seven Muslim-majority nations and an indefinite ban on refugees from Syria.
“So Trump banned Muslims,” one man said. “Maybe now we’ll feel safer,” replied a second, she recalled Tuesday.
Then they said of those who might object to the ban, “Well, maybe if they knew someone who was killed in 9/11 or something they would realize it’s what we have to do.”
“Yeah,” said the other man. “Without Muslims, those Americans would have never been killed.”
Mastrocinque said they nodded knowingly at each other when they glimpsed her disapproving face, as if to say, “if only she understood.”
What the two men couldn’t know was that Mastrocinque understood all too well.
That night, she wrote an essay, “Muslims Did Not Kill My Father,” on a personal blog.
Her father, Rudolph Mastrocinque, 43, a property claims representative, died in the World Trade Towers on Sept. 11, 2001. The married dad of two was a Kings Park soccer coach, a Mets fan and history buff. She was a month shy of her 16th birthday when he lost his life in Tower One.
When she left the doughnut shop, said Mastrocinque, 31, she cried in her car before going to her job as a middle school English teacher.
“The entire day I had these thoughts fill my head,” she said. The essay she wrote that night had been viewed almost 3,000 times on social media by Tuesday afternoon.
“All the comments I’ve received have been positive,’’ she said. ‘‘I have yet to see negative comments, although they may be out there.”
In the essay, Mastrocinque said, in the angry years after 9/11 she too thought it was the religion of Islam that had driven “those men to crash two planes into the World Trade Center. However, I learned, I changed, and I grew.”
“I realized that no, Muslims did not kill my father. But you know what did kill my father? Psychosis killed my father. Ignorance killed my father. Hate, fear, anger and frustration killed my father.’’
She continued, what Muslims did do was take “the time to look into my eyes and step into my shoes. Muslims inspired me to choose religion as my second [college] major. Muslims became my teachers, colleagues and best friends.”
And now, as a teacher in an ethnically and religiously diverse Long Island district, she said, young Muslims tell her she has inspired them to become teachers too.
She studied religion at upstate Colgate University, she said, reading the Quran and the teachings of Islam.
She added that just as the violent acts of groups such as the Ku Klux Klan don’t represent Christianity when the group uses religion to justify its acts of hatred, neither do the acts of the violent few represent the vast majority of Muslims.
In her essay, she offered to return to the doughnut shop to share her copy of the Quran with the men who’d held that conversation. She also urged them to “Think of the refugees who are fleeing an actually unsafe environment and being denied access to a country that could help them become the next student, teacher, professor and friend.’’
In a Facebook posting, her brother, Peter Mastrocinque, called his sister special.
‘‘I’d say ‘wow,’ but knowing her as well as I do, I’m not at all surprised. This is exactly what I know to expect from her. Proud as ever.’’