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New citizens grateful despite some Americans’ fears

Charleston Gazette-Mail photo by F. Brian Ferguson Noura Akkad (right) wipes away tears as she and her friend, Alazan Albany, become United States citizens during a ceremony Thursday at the Robert C. Byrd U.S. Courthouse, in Charleston. Both women are originally from Syria.
Charleston Gazette-Mail photo by F. Brian Ferguson
Noura Akkad (right) wipes away tears as she and her friend, Alazan Albany, become United States citizens during a ceremony Thursday at the Robert C. Byrd U.S. Courthouse, in Charleston. Both women are originally from Syria.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — As more and more Americans were publicly turning against her religion in recent months, Noura Akkad was turning to it.

Akkad and her husband, Dr. Alaa Mousattat, had worked toward American citizenship for years. They were supposed to become citizens together.

On Thursday, Akkad reached her goal after 10 years in the United States — but it was without her husband.

Mousattat died of pancreatic cancer, at age 40, about nine months ago.

Akkad was wearing her hijab Thursday at her naturalization ceremony. She started wearing it after her husband died.

“You tend to get more religious, I guess, when you go through a loss,” she said, “looking for a bigger power somewhere that will help you through all the pain.”

Thursday’s ceremony, held at the Robert C. Byrd U.S. Courthouse, in Charleston, was marked by smiles and laughs, like when Jon Cavendish, one of the performers, gestured that the immigrants needed to sing “Country Roads” louder by cupping his ear toward their mouths. It was also marked by tears, like when Erica Mani, chief executive officer for the state region of the Red Cross, broke down while predicting the immigrants’ children would go on to tell their stories for generations.

Akkad’s smiles were interrupted by occasional tears, as well. They started to fall when, while telling her story after the ceremony…

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