Zeitoun

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Abdulrahman Zeitoun Character Analysis

The protagonist of the book, Zeitoun, as he is usually called, is originally from Jableh, a small coastal town in Syria. After spending years as a sailor traveling all around the world, Zeitoun moved to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where he met his wife Kathy, and then to New Orleans. A devout Muslim, he has also embraced his adopted country as well as the city of New Orleans, which he has come to call home. Zeitoun is hard-working and committed, and is proud of having built a painting and contracting business from scratch. He can also be very stubborn and unwilling to listen to others, which is part of the reason he refuses to leave the city even as his wife begs him to. Zeitoun was deeply affected by the death of his brother Mohammed, who was an internationally acclaimed swimmer. The desire to live up to Mohammed’s legacy—along with Zeitoun’s faith and patriotism—serves as a major motivation for Zeitoun’s series of rescues in New Orleans.

Abdulrahman Zeitoun Quotes in Zeitoun

The Zeitoun quotes below are all either spoken by Abdulrahman Zeitoun or refer to Abdulrahman Zeitoun. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Family, Community, and Home Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Vintage edition of Zeitoun published in 2010.
Part 1: Friday August 26 Quotes

The banter they’d developed, full of his exasperation and her one-liners, was entertaining to everyone who overheard it. It was unavoidable, too, given how often they talked. Neither of them could operate their home, their company, their lives or days without the other.

Related Characters: Abdulrahman Zeitoun, Kathy Zeitoun
Page Number: 16
Explanation and Analysis:

As we are introduced to the Zeitouns, we come quickly to understand that their lives are inextricably bound both in the obvious ways - they are a married couple - but also in the details of their day-to-day lives. After all, they are not only husband and wife but also business partners, not to mention co-parents. Kathy's first impulse when anything seems like it may go wrong is to pick up the phone and call her husband: one of these moments is what prompts Eggers to try to explain their relationship. He does not claim that it is a perfect one - indeed, he suggests that they are mutually exasperating as much as they act lovingly towards each other - but he does underline how much the relationship is one of mutual dependence and reliance. 

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His frustration with some Americans was like that of a disappointed parent. He was so content in this country, so impressed with and loving of its opportunities, but then why, sometimes, did Americans fall short of their best selves?

Related Characters: Abdulrahman Zeitoun
Page Number: 37
Explanation and Analysis:

The book has been describing some of the minor slights and instances of prejudice that Zeitoun and Kathy have suffered at work and in life in general, often due to his Syrian heritage or to their Muslim beliefs. Here, Eggers characterizes Zeitoun's relationship to his adopted country, the United States, as one of complex ambivalence. On the one hand, he is grateful to have been given the opportunity to build his own business, to create a life for himself, in a way that would have been difficult for him to do back home in Syria. But on the other hand, he finds the prejudices and small-mindedness of some Americans painful and confusing.

By describing Zeitoun's attitude as that of a "disappointed parent," Eggers emphasizes that it is not that Zeitoun finds there to be a sickness innate to America, something unresolvable. Instead he believes such beliefs and attitudes to be a stage similar to that of a teenager, who simply needs to grow up and learn to become his or her best self. Islamophobia, for Zeitoun, is not something that should necessarily characterize Americans, but rather something that they can overcome. 

Part 2: Wednesday August 31 Quotes

But there was the canoe. He saw it, floating above the yard, tethered to the house. Amid the devastation of the city, standing on the roof of his drowned home, Zeitoun felt something like inspiration. He imagined floating, alone, through the streets of his city. In a way, this was a new world, uncharted. He could be an explorer. He could see things first.

Related Characters: Abdulrahman Zeitoun
Related Symbols: Zeitoun’s Canoe
Page Number: 94-95
Explanation and Analysis:

When the storm quiets down and Zeitoun is left in a flooded city, he begins to feel restless and bored. Not long after that, however, he realizes that he is not condemned to remain trapped at home indefinitely. The canoe is his ticket out of what he hates the most - doing nothing. Zeitoun's adventurous spirit has already become clear: for one, he arrived to the United States on a steamer after traveling all around the world. Now he has another chance to uncover another new world, though in quite a different context.

However, Zeitoun's romantic vision of exploring uncharted paths and floating peacefully through the city is described mainly as a contrast to what he will actually find. A devastating hurricane, of course, has just ripped through New Orleans. While Eggers doesn't portray Zeitoun as naive or uncaring, he points to Zeitoun's initial reactions both to underline his natural sense of adventure, and to suggest that few people thought that Hurricane Katrina would be devastating to the extent that it was.

Had they been in a fan boat, the noise overwhelming, they would have heard nothing. They would have passed by, and the woman likely would not have survived another night. It was the very nature of this small, silent craft that allowed them to hear the quietest cries. The canoe was good, the silence was crucial.

Related Characters: Abdulrahman Zeitoun, Frank Noland
Related Symbols: Zeitoun’s Canoe
Page Number: 109
Explanation and Analysis:

Zeitoun and Frank have spent the day paddling around the neighborhood, helping a number of trapped residents in need. Zeitoun feels excited and purposeful - like there's a reason that he's remained behind in the city. Now, he realizes that the canoe is more than a means for him to keep from going mad while cooped up in his home. It can be used to help others as well, and, most importantly, it is ideally suited to such a task. The fan boats that have been sharing the same space as the small, unassuming-looking canoe seem important and necessary, part of an official fleet that has been dispatched to aid the recovery from the storm. But here Zeitoun recognizes that the fan boats' power is more symbolic than real, since it is too loud for its conductors to actually listen for people in need.

Part 2: Tuesday September 6 Quotes

But Zeitoun felt again that perhaps this was his calling, that God had waited to put him here and now to test him in this way. And so he hoped, as silly as it seemed, that his siblings might see him like this, on the water, a sailor again, being useful, serving God.

Related Characters: Abdulrahman Zeitoun
Page Number: 167
Explanation and Analysis:

Zeitoun has just been interviewed by a local reporter and asked about what he's been doing while in the city. Now he admits that he hopes one of his siblings will see the news broadcast and be impressed by what they see. They will realize, he hopes, that Mohammed is not the only one in the family who has completed admirable feats. Zeitoun's naturally competitive nature is evident once again here. Some of his motivations for helping others are indeed related to the social networks in which he takes part, and by which he hopes to prove himself. 

But Zeitoun also considers his task in New Orleans to be one of proving himself not only for his neighbors and family, but also for God. Zeitoun considers divine tests, such as those to be found in the Qur'an or Old Testament, to be central to his faith, and he sees this experience as something sent by God for him to fulfill and thus prove himself worthy enough. 

Part 3: Saturday September 17 Quotes

She had married a bullheaded man, a sometimes ridiculously stubborn man. He could be exasperating in his sense of destiny. […] But then again, she thought, it gave their marriage a certain epic scope.

Related Characters: Abdulrahman Zeitoun, Kathy Zeitoun
Page Number: 199
Explanation and Analysis:

Kathy is remembering one particularly exaggerated example of Zeitoun's stubbornness, when he had suggested at the beach that they stroll towards a far-away rock, even when the walk ends up taking hours and becomes far more strenuous than either of them had thought. For Kathy, this anecdote is emblematic of Zeitoun's character in general. When he decides what he wants to do, nothing and no one can get in his way. Kathy tends to grow anxious over her family's safety, and yet she realizes that if Zeitoun wants to stay in New Orleans, there is no way she can stop him.

In some ways, Kathy finds this aspect of Zeitoun's nature incredibly maddening. For her it threatens to wear at the close-knit family life she has worked so hard to develop, the stability that was foreign to her for so long. Yet at the same time, Kathy admires Zeitoun's "bullheaded" character, which ensures that life around him is never boring or banal. Her frustration mingles and coexists with her admiration for this man who she feels so inextricably tied to.

Part 4: Tuesday September 6 Quotes

When Zeitoun and the others entered the main room of the station, immediately fifty pairs of eyes, those of soldiers and police officers and military personnel, were upon them. There were no other civilians inside. It was as if the entire operation, this bus station-turned-military base, had been arranged for them.

Related Characters: Abdulrahman Zeitoun, Nasser Dayoob, Todd Gambino, Ronnie
Related Symbols: Camp Greyhound
Page Number: 210-211
Explanation and Analysis:

Zeitoun has been arrested with the three other men in the house, and his experience is beginning to take on a surreal quality. He has no idea why he's been arrested, where he'll be taken, or what will happen next. All he can tell is that what began as a natural tragedy, a devastating hurricane, has now morphed into something quite different. Rather than a rescue operation, the officials here seem to have quickly cobbled together a makeshift center based around crime and even war. At the same time, Zeitoun cannot see any evidence that such a vast structural operation stems from a real need at all. He believes he hasn't done anything wrong, and he doesn't see any other guilty parties: instead, these institutions seem to have cropped up almost of their own will. As the book shifts away from an inspiring section on Zeitoun's feats in helping others after the hurricane, it turns towards a more somber aspect of the days and weeks after Katrina, when social trauma and injustice proved even greater than natural disaster.

Until this point, Zeitoun had not been charged with a crime. He had not been read his rights. He did not know why he was being held. Now he was in a small white room being asked by two soldiers, each of them in full camouflage and holding automatic rifles, to remove his clothes.

Related Characters: Abdulrahman Zeitoun
Page Number: 216
Explanation and Analysis:

After waiting for hours, Zeitoun is taken inside a room for processing, and we are about to learn in painful detail what indignities he is subject to, such as stripping bare in front of strangers and being treated roughly and with suspicion. Here, Eggers emphasizes the total disconnect between Zeitoun's position and the way in which he is being treated. First, he stresses that this processing is not following the typical legal procedures that are in place to ensure that people are considered innocent until proven guilty, like being read their rights or knowing what crime they're being charged for.

This passage also is meant to reiterate the extreme militarization of the official response to Katrina. Rather than entering with doctors and rescue materials, those in charge send in policemen and soldiers that look like they are straight out of a war zone, complete with camouflage and massive weapons. Throughout this section, the book will attempt to show how disproportionate this response was to the reality on the ground. The institutions meant to combat crime and injustice, the book argues, actually exhibited the greatest example of injustice themselves.

Part 4: Wednesday September 7 Quotes

Who did this work? Were there contractors and laborers working around the clock on a prison days after the hurricane? It was mind-boggling. It was all the more remarkable given that while the construction was taking place, on September 2, 3, and 4, thousands of residents were being plucked from rooftops, were being discovered alive and dead in attics.

Related Characters: Abdulrahman Zeitoun
Related Symbols: Camp Greyhound
Page Number: 227
Explanation and Analysis:

As a businessman and a contractor, Zeitoun is adept at judging the amount of labor and time needed to accomplish certain tasks of construction. As he looks around Camp Greyhound, he marvels at this feat, recognizing just how much work it must have taken. In this passage, Zeitoun first wonders about the precise logistics of this process, failing to imagine how he, if in charge of it, would have been able to carry it out. Almost immediately, he compares this remarkable process with what he knows, from personal experience, to have been the real needs of people in New Orleans in the days after the hurricane.

Though he doesn't say it explicitly, the comparison suggests that valuable time, money, and energy were siphoned away from those who needed rescuing and put into the construction of this facility whose function Zeitoun still doesn't entirely grasp. Once again, the book aims to portray the disconnect between the reality of Hurricane Katrina, which essentially created domestic refugees in need of rescue and of medical help, and the response, which emphasized the criminal and even warlike dangers after the storm.

The ban on phone calls was, then, purely punitive, just as the pepper-spraying of the child-man had been born of a combination of opportunity, cruelty, ambivalence, and sport. There was no utility in that, just as there was no utility in barring all prisoners from contacting the outside world.

Related Characters: Abdulrahman Zeitoun
Related Symbols: Camp Greyhound
Page Number: 236
Explanation and Analysis:

Zeitoun is feeling enormously guilty for having dismissed Kathy's concerns, especially now that he knows she must be so worried about him. He thinks his situation would all be much better if he could only have a chance to call her. In addition, according to American law, anyone arrested has the legal right to a phone call - a right that Zeitoun has not been granted since he's been here. After running through various possibilities for why this might be the case, Zeitoun settles on one: the guards have simply chosen the lack of the phone call as punishment for people they assume to be guilty of something, even if they haven't said what. 

Zeitoun has been trying to find a rational way to account for the behavior of the officials at Camp Greyhound, but now he is beginning to realize that reason and utility are not going to serve him here. A structure ostensibly set up to hold criminals and keep people safe is doing the opposite: indeed, the forces meant to work for justice are exhibiting shockingly unjust behavior. Because there are no real reasons for the guards to keep these people prisoners, they invent various means of punishing them, as if they've entered a bizarre universe where the rules, laws, and values of society no longer apply.

Part 4: Monday September 12 Quotes

Kathy often worried about the National Guard and other soldiers returning to the United States after time in Iraq and Afghanistan. She warned him about passing groups of soldiers in airports, about walking near National Guard offices. “They’re trained to kill people like you,” she would say to Zeitoun, only half-joking. She had not wanted their family to become collateral damage in a war that had no discernible fronts, no real shape, and no rules.

Related Characters: Abdulrahman Zeitoun, Kathy Zeitoun
Page Number: 252
Explanation and Analysis:

Zeitoun and Nasser are once again left alone in their cell, giving Zeitoun another opportunity to wonder about what he is doing in Camp Greyhound and why people are interested in him. His thoughts turn to Kathy's worries in the past about the possibility that Zeitoun, because he was Muslim and Middle Eastern, might be a target or object of suspicion to authorities. 

When Katrina takes place, the United States is entangled in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan: while they have pushed Saddam Hussein from power, for instance, neither the war in Iraq nor in Afghanistan is won, or even seems winnable by any standard definition of triumph in war. Instead, the wars have expanded to include a general attitude of fear and conflict with any part of the world that might seem to pose a threat to the United States. Kathy's point is that Muslim-Americans like Zeitoun may well seem to some to be part of such a threat, especially given the hazy borders of President George Bush's "war on terror." She argues as a result that Zeitoun has to be extra careful, more careful than white, non-Muslim Americans. While Zeitoun has brushed off her opinions before, now he begins to wonder whether or not Kathy's fears may well be able to explain his current situation.

Part 4: Saturday September 17 Quotes

He had long believed that the police acted in the best interests of the citizens they served. That the military was accountable, reasonable, and was kept in check by concentric circles of regulations, laws, common sense, common decency. But now those hopes could be put to rest.

Related Characters: Abdulrahman Zeitoun
Page Number: 263
Explanation and Analysis:

Confined for 23 hours a day to his cell, with nothing to do but think, Zeitoun muses painfully on the subject of his imprisonment and what it implies for his view of American society and the American government. Earlier, Zeitoun's attitude towards prejudiced citizens was described as one of a "disappointed parent," who believed their intentions were good, their values real and true, if only covered by a veneer of weakness or fear. Now he is beginning to question such a basic assumption, given that he has witnessed cruelty that seems to play nonchalantly, even gleefully, with injustice. He can no longer expect that Americans are mostly good deep down, nor can he even expect that their uglier sides will be "kept in check" by community values and common sense, much less by laws and statutes. He is beginning to feel that there is a disease at the very heart of the institutions of his adopted country, from the police to the military, if such institutions have allowed a case like his to go on.

He thought of bycatch. It was a fishing term. They’d used it when he was a boy, fishing for sardines by the light of the moon they’d made. When they pulled in the net, there were thousands of sardines, of course, but there were other creatures too, life they had not intended to catch and for which they had no use. Often they would not know until too late.

Related Characters: Abdulrahman Zeitoun
Page Number: 263
Explanation and Analysis:

As Zeitoun attempts to determine what it means for him to be here, stuck in a jail cell despite having done nothing to warrant his arrest - and despite having failed to receive any notice of his charges - he returns to his past in order to search for an analogy that might allow him to better understand his situation. As a child, Zeitoun had often gone fishing with his brother, and even once thought that he might continue his family's trade and fish for a living. Now he recalls one of the more somber sides of catching sardines - the fact that many other living creatures would often be unintentionally caught up in the catch, but if not dumped back into the sea would probably die as well.

Zeitoun sees his own situation as one of "bycatch." In response to the natural tragedy of Katrina, government institutions cranked into action with the broad intent of keeping people safe and helping them recover. But much of the response included far too sweeping regulations, ones that were meant to combat real crime and injustice but instead ended up sweeping innocent people into the fold, with little concern for what would happen to them.

He had risked too much in the hopes that he might do something to match the deeds of his brother Mohammed. No, it had never been a conscious part of his motivation—he had done what he could in the drowned city because he was there, it needed to be done, and he could do it. But somewhere in his gut, was there not some hope that he, too, could bring pride to the family, as Mohammed had so many years ago? […] And was this imprisonment God’s way of curbing his pride, tempering his vainglorious dreams?

Related Characters: Abdulrahman Zeitoun, Mohammed Zeitoun
Page Number: 264
Explanation and Analysis:

Still trapped in his solitary cell, Zeitoun has the chance to return to his actions on the canoe after Katrina with a more honest, reflective eye. He recognizes that his motivations were not entirely selfless. Of course, he was motivated by a realization that there was a real need for people in the city to be rescued, and when he heard cries for help his first response was to go to their aid. But he also begins, now, to admit to himself that he wanted to live up to his brother's legacy, to do something that would be just as admirable in the eyes of his family and his community.

Now, Zeitoun continues to draw on his faith in order to understand and structure his response to his current situation. Having understood his time helping others as a kind of divine test, he now sees his unjust imprisonment as another kind of test, or even a kind of divine punishment. He wonders if his vain hopes for glory were destined to end in misery and indignity, if only so that God might show him the folly of such selfish dreams. At other moments, Zeitoun has been certain that the institutions involved are at fault for his imprisonment: now, he combines that view with another one that has more to do with his individual morality and relationship to his faith.

Part 4: Thursday September 29 Quotes

They held each other for a long moment. She could feel his shoulder blades, his ribs. His neck seemed so thin and fragile, his arms skeletal. She pulled back, and his eyes were the same—green, long-lashed, touched with honey—but they were tired, defeated. She had never seen this in him. He had been broken.

Related Characters: Abdulrahman Zeitoun, Kathy Zeitoun
Page Number: 289
Explanation and Analysis:

Finally, Zeitoun is released and he and Kathy are reunited. But what was supposed to be an occasion for great joy and relief becomes instead, for Kathy, one of enormous disillusionment and sadness. As she embraces him, she sees the physical reminders of what he has been through. Not only is he thin and unhealthy-looking, but the very look in his eyes is different, defeated and exhausted. This both upsets and frightens Kathy. She has not been able to talk to Zeitoun and does not know in any detail what he has been through: she can only see the effects.

Like the natural tragedy of Katrina, the human-scale violence done to Zeitoun thus also creates material traces. However, these traces cannot speak to the full extent of what Zeitoun went through. Until now, Zeitoun and Kathy have shared almost every detail of their lives together, calling each other several times a day through their roles as husband and wife in addition to business partners. Now a gap has widened between Kathy and Zeitoun, one that she cannot see how she'll be able to bridge.

Part 5: Fall 2008 Quotes

The Zeitouns have lived in seven apartments and houses since the storm. Their Dublin Street office was leveled and is now a parking lot. The house on Dart is still unfinished. They are tired.

Related Characters: Abdulrahman Zeitoun, Kathy Zeitoun
Page Number: 295
Explanation and Analysis:

In the final section of the book, Eggers takes stock of the Zeitoun family's experiences in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Zeitoun's hellish arrest and imprisonment may be over, but the aftershocks of that experience continue to affect the family. In part, these difficulties are shared by many other families in the years after Katrina. The Zeitouns lost their home and office, and now, years afterward, they still do not have a completed, ready place to call home.

In addition, of course, the difficulty of the Zeitouns in settling back into regular life is compounded by the isolation they feel in coming to terms with the prejudice and bureaucratic incompetence of the official response to Katrina. Their exhaustion stems not just from their material uncertainty, as they are forced to move around continually without settling down, but also from the emotional aftermath of the weeks following the storm.

Gonzalez talked about how the system is supposed to work: police officers investigate, make arrests, and then hand the process over to the judicial system. Under normal circumstances, if the men were innocent, he maintained, they would have been given a phone call and the opportunity to post bail. “They should have gotten a phone call,” he said.

Related Characters: Ralph Gonzalez (speaker), Abdulrahman Zeitoun, Kathy Zeitoun
Page Number: 304
Explanation and Analysis:

Gonzalez, one of the officers that arrested Zeitoun, is interviewed for the book years after Katrina, and tries to explain the process that he followed in attempting to combat crime in the days and weeks after the storm. He seems to have an abstract understanding of the procedures that are in place to ensure that people are given due process and are considered innocent until proven guilty. However, he cannot seem to give a satisfactory answer to the question of what went wrong in the course of Zeitoun's arrest.

Finally, he seems to admit that according to what he has been told, Zeitoun was not treated properly by the authorities. Gonzalez may well be reluctant to admit personal wrongdoing, but it also seems that he is willing to acknowledge that his institution or others shared wrongdoing. It is not an entirely satisfying response, though it does help Kathy and Zeitoun gain validation from others that what they went through was wrong.

On the one hand, knowing that these two police officers had not purposely hunted and arrested a man because he was Middle Eastern gave them some comfort. But knowing that Zeitoun’s ordeal was caused instead by systemic ignorance and malfunction—and perhaps long-festering paranoia on the part of the National Guard and whatever other agencies were involved—was unsettling. It said, quite clearly, that this wasn’t a case of a bad apple or two in the barrel. The barrel itself was rotten.

Related Characters: Abdulrahman Zeitoun, Kathy Zeitoun, Donald Lima, Ralph Gonzalez
Page Number: 307
Explanation and Analysis:

After interviewing the police officers responsible for arresting Zeitoun, he and Kathy have a more accurate account of the reasons for his arrest—the event that triggered the rest of his harrowing experience at Camp Greyhound and in jail. Zeitoun had come to agree with Kathy that prejudice may well have played a part in his arrest. But it is almost worse for them to realize that this wasn't just a case of one racist or prejudiced officer or guard. 

Instead, we learn in this passage, the problem was "systemic" - reaching far broader than the mistakes made by one or two individuals. This is unsettling because it means that, for things to change, a great deal more is needed than simply firing or disciplining one person, or even of getting a few people to understand the root of their prejudices. Instead, it is necessary to think about the ignorance, incompetence, and even paranoia at the heart of major government bureaucracies, which allowed Zeitoun to slip through the cracks.

To dial a number given to you by a man in a cage, to tell the voice on the other end, “I saw him.” Is that complicated? Is that an act of great heroism in the United States of America? It should not be so.

Related Characters: Abdulrahman Zeitoun, Kathy Zeitoun, Missionary
Page Number: 319
Explanation and Analysis:

As Kathy struggles herself with the aftermath of Zeitoun's arrest and imprisonment, she often returns to the fact of how easily things could have been different if someone had shown greater compassion or humanity. The one person she does feel grateful towards, and whom she'd like to thank, is the missionary who took Kathy's phone number from Zeitoun and called her to tell her that he saw her husband, and that he was alive. 

Now, Eggers takes a step back to question what counts and what should count as great heroism in such circumstances. He acknowledges that the missionary did Kathy and Zeitoun a great service. But he also underlines how small and insignificant an act it was, when compared to the structural injustice and unfairness of what Zeitoun went through. He thus suggests that our standards for heroism have been deflated by such injustice, which makes even the smallest show of humanity seem incredible. 

As he drives through the city during the day and dreams of it at night, his mind vaults into glorious reveries—he envisions this city and this country not just as it was, but better, far better. It can be.

Related Characters: Abdulrahman Zeitoun
Page Number: 325
Explanation and Analysis:

Zeitoun is proud of having restored over a hundred homes with his company in the years after Katrina. This passage, following a number of more sobering details about the struggles of the Zeitouns in the time following Hurricane Katrina, seeks to end the book on a more optimistic note. Indeed, Zeitoun's attitude here is portrayed as more positive, thanks to the success he's been able to regain in his professional life. For him, his job is more than a way to pay the bills: it is symbolic of his desire to change his community for the better.

Rebuilding New Orleans is of course a matter of physical, material reconstruction, but it is also, according to Zeitoun, a chance for the community to reimagine what it would like to be and how it might change. There is a chance, he thinks, that people may become more inclusive, and that if he just perseveres long enough, he will see this changes happen. Zeitoun thus remains committed to his country and smaller communities even despite the unfairness of what he went through, refusing to entirely lose hope that transformation is possible.

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Abdulrahman Zeitoun Character Timeline in Zeitoun

The timeline below shows where the character Abdulrahman Zeitoun appears in Zeitoun. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1: Friday August 26
Family, Community, and Home Theme Icon
The narration begins with the protagonist Abdulrahman Zeitoun’s recollections of nights spent fishing in his hometown of Jableh, on the coast of... (full context)
Family, Community, and Home Theme Icon
Faith, Perseverance, and Dignity Theme Icon
Once Abdulrahman was thirteen, and old enough to join them, he would enjoy paddling quietly with them,... (full context)
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Thirty-four years later, in 2005, Abdulrahman wakes up in New Orleans, Louisiana, next to his wife Kathy. He lets the memories... (full context)
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Kathy and Zeitoun (as most people call Abdulrahman, since they have trouble pronouncing his first name) run a... (full context)
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Islam and Islamophobia Theme Icon
...handles the building and painting: Kathy’s native Louisiana accent puts people at ease. She and Zeitoun have been married for eleven years. Zeitoun had arrived in New Orleans in 1994, and... (full context)
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Kathy and Zeitoun’s children, Nademah, Aisha, and Safiya, are currently obsessed with the movie Pride and Prejudice, and... (full context)
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Kathy worries about Zeitoun, who today, as usual, eats barely anything for his 12-hour shifts, and yet manages to... (full context)
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Already at 7:30 a.m., Zeitoun feels behind for work, so he rushes out the door, stopping to kiss Aisha, who... (full context)
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Islam and Islamophobia Theme Icon
Kathy adjusts her hijab (headscarf)—a nervous habit of hers—as she watches Zeitoun leave. His white van has “Zeitoun A. Painting Contractor” painted on it, along with images... (full context)
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Zeitoun drives to work, still thinking of Jableh. His mother is no longer alive, and his... (full context)
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...clients and jobs, but the disadvantages to running a business are growing, and she and Zeitoun work and worry constantly. They own six properties with eighteen tenants, and feel responsible for... (full context)
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...be able to send them to college. Kathy had grown up with eight siblings, and Zeitoun with twelve—neither of them had much. Kathy marvels at the maturity and intelligence of Nademah,... (full context)
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Human vs. Natural Tragedy Theme Icon
...and hears that there are 110-mile-per-hour winds and storm surges in the Gulf. She calls Zeitoun and asks if he thinks it’s serious. “Really? I don’t know,” he replies. He prefaces... (full context)
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Faith, Perseverance, and Dignity Theme Icon
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...Syrian American and managing a painting and contracting business still surprises her. She had met Zeitoun when she was a recent divorcée and convert to Islam, and was uninterested in getting... (full context)
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Across town, Zeitoun begins his first job of the day in the Garden District, where he greets his... (full context)
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Zeitoun gets a call from his brother Ahmad in Spain, who is worrying about the approaching... (full context)
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Zeitoun’s next job is in the same neighborhood—their company often benefits from word of mouth. It... (full context)
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Back in the car, Zeitoun hears more about the storm Katrina. He heads to the Presbytere Museum in Jackson Square,... (full context)
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Zeitoun is naturally stubborn, having been raised by a legendary sailor who had survived a number... (full context)
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...to pursue. Some of his children did grow up to work on the sea, but Zeitoun followed his father’s trajectory in becoming first a sailor and then, to provide for his... (full context)
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Zeitoun calls Kathy back. She is online and is tracking the storm, which has already killed... (full context)
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When he began working in New Orleans eleven years earlier, Zeitoun was hired by Charlie Saucier, who had built his own company from scratch. He wanted... (full context)
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At noon Zeitoun heads to the Islamic Center downtown for the second of his five daily prayers, which... (full context)
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Afterwards, Zeitoun calls Kathy, who says the storm looks like it’s turning into a Category 3. Zeitoun... (full context)
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Kathy gets deeply affected by stories like these, and she calls Zeitoun to tell him that their friends are leaving. Zeitoun usually trusts Walt, but after hesitating,... (full context)
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Zeitoun had met a Lebanese American named Ahmaad in Baton Rouge, who became a close friend.... (full context)
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Ahmaad gave Zeitoun the address of the furniture store where Kathy worked, and Zeitoun pulled into its parking... (full context)
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Zeitoun told Ahmaad that he needed to meet Kathy. They agreed to meet at Ahmaad and... (full context)
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Back in New Orleans, Kathy calls Zeitoun in the early afternoon about a problem with a client. She begins to fret about... (full context)
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Zeitoun’s work is never dull, what with people’s changing tastes and the subjective nature of the... (full context)
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Usually Zeitoun laughs these events off, but once in awhile they bother him deeply. He loves the... (full context)
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Zeitoun especially can’t stand anyone raising his or her voice to Kathy. One young woman had... (full context)
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Back at the room with the tangerine bathroom, Zeitoun calls Kathy back to run through prices, and notes the massive, antique tub in the... (full context)
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...the family of five, the father a construction supervisor, who had gone missing. She calls Zeitoun and begs him to leave. He says she can go, but he’s staying. Zeitoun always... (full context)
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After that, Zeitoun understood that Kathy was serious. She continued to make plans, and once in awhile he... (full context)
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...for Louisiana. Kathy feels rattled, and realizes it’s too late to make dinner. She calls Zeitoun to ask him to pick up take-out. (full context)
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At dinner, Zeitoun tells his daughters, who are picking at their food, to finish everything on their plates.... (full context)
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After dinner, Kathy and the girls watch Pride and Prejudice yet again as Zeitoun does chores. Kathy is growing more anxious, but after the movie she turns on the... (full context)
Part 1: Saturday August 27
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The next morning, Zeitoun and Kathy turn on the TV to see Michael Brown, the director of the Federal... (full context)
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Kathy continues to try to convince Zeitoun to leave, but he’s never evacuated before and doesn’t see a reason to now. He... (full context)
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After securing some work sites, Zeitoun returns to say goodbye to his family. Kathy has packed enough for two days, figuring... (full context)
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As Zeitoun continues securing sites, he notices hundreds of people carrying coolers and blankets to the Superdome.... (full context)
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...on the road, Kathy finally arrives in Baton Rouge at 11:30 at night. She calls Zeitoun once she puts the kids to bed, and he says there’s no wind or rain... (full context)
Part 1: Sunday August 28
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...for New Orleans and expected to arrive that night. That day, clients call Kathy and Zeitoun to ask them to secure their windows and doors. Zeitoun and one of his carpenters... (full context)
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...winds and black skies, and the power goes out by evening. Kathy tries to call Zeitoun but can’t reach him, so she assumes the lines are down. At home in New... (full context)
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Zeitoun manages to call Kathy that evening to tell her that there are only strong winds... (full context)
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Zeitoun had bought the canoe, an old aluminum model, from a client a few years before... (full context)
Part 1: Monday August 29
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Zeitoun wakes up late the next morning to strong winds and rain and a few more... (full context)
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In New Orleans, the weather calms in the afternoon and Zeitoun leaves the house to find his canoe floating in the backyard. He paddles around an... (full context)
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That evening the water recedes entirely and the streets are dry, so Zeitoun calls Kathy to tell her to return home. She’s about to eat dinner with the... (full context)
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In the evening Zeitoun’s second cousin Adnan, who manages Subway franchises in New Orleans, calls to ask if Zeitoun... (full context)
Part 1: Tuesday August 30
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The next morning Zeitoun notices that it is still strangely quiet. He daydreams about his family’s home on Arwad... (full context)
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...always knew he would be a sailor, though he kept this hidden from his father. Abdulrahman (Zeitoun) admired his older brother and followed him around everywhere, learning from him how to... (full context)
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Zeitoun recalls the constant ebb and flow of the Mediterranean, but that sound seems to jar... (full context)
Part 2: Tuesday August 30
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Zeitoun opens his eyes, back in New Orleans, to hear a sound of running water. Looking... (full context)
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Zeitoun quickly calls Kathy, but then has to get to work. He lifts as much furniture... (full context)
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The water is flowing into Zeitoun’s yard as he continues to drag everything he can upstairs. The water’s translucent color is... (full context)
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By that night, the neighborhood is under nine feet of water and Zeitoun can’t do anything else. He calls Kathy, realizing that the house will have to be... (full context)
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In New Orleans, Zeitoun is leafing with a flashlight through the boxes of pictures he’s salvaged. He pauses over... (full context)
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...magazines and newspapers worldwide. His siblings swarmed around him whenever he was briefly home. When Zeitoun was six, Mohammed was tragically killed in a car accident in Egypt, just before a... (full context)
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Zeitoun has trouble sleeping—he’s never had to withstand such heat without air conditioning. He crawls up... (full context)
Part 2: Wednesday August 31
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The next day is bright and sunny in New Orleans. Zeitoun sees only an underwater city for miles in every direction, and he thinks of Noah’s... (full context)
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Zeitoun is overwhelmed as he passes unsalvageable bicycles and cars: he imagines there must be over... (full context)
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Zeitoun is torn between his feeling of adventure, which makes him want to explore and witness... (full context)
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As Zeitoun turns south on Vincennes Place, he sees a client, Frank Noland, leaning out of his... (full context)
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Frank asks Zeitoun to take him to check on his truck, and Zeitoun agrees to do so before... (full context)
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Soon they see an older doctor whom Zeitoun knows on the second-floor porch of a house. Zeitoun asks if he needs help, but... (full context)
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...paddle away, they hear a weak female voice calling for help from a one-story house. Zeitoun jumps into the water and swims to the porch, where he has to kick down... (full context)
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On Claiborne they see a fan boat, a military model, heading straight for them. Zeitoun feels proud that he’ll be able to give his promised help, but as soon as... (full context)
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...with two young men approaches, and this one does stop. They throw a line to Zeitoun and tow the canoe to the woman’s house with the motorboat. The woman directs them... (full context)
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...kind of gurney, with the two men from the motorboat heaving the woman up while Zeitoun pushes from below. Though it’s awkward, they manage to maneuver her over to the boat.... (full context)
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Frank, Zeitoun, and the three others are heading to the older couple at the other house when... (full context)
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...from the radio reports. She hears of violence, chaos, and thousands of deaths. She tries Zeitoun’s home and cell phones again and again, as she hears that 10,000 National Guardsmen are... (full context)
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...there. Kathy resists snapping at her and instead starts to pack. She asks herself why Zeitoun had been so stubborn to stay. (full context)
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In New Orleans, however, Zeitoun feels full of purpose and vigor, having already helped five elderly residents. He realizes that... (full context)
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Todd invites Zeitoun and Frank inside, where he has brought all his possessions up to the second floor.... (full context)
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...claim that there are roving gangs of armed men in the city. Kathy realizes that Zeitoun must not know about this violence, but it could easily reach his neighborhood soon. (full context)
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Zeitoun and Frank paddle back to Zeitoun’s house, passing fan boats along the way. Zeitoun realizes... (full context)
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Zeitoun crawls back into the house to look again at the photo of his brother Mohammed.... (full context)
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...his victory to President Nasir, who celebrated him as an honorary lieutenant. As a child, Abdulrahman was in awe of his brother, who seemed to prove that the family was destined... (full context)
Part 2: Thursday September 1
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...the road she calls the Claiborne house, though it’s earlier than her arranged call with Zeitoun. A gruff-sounding man enters and says that there’s no one there by that name, and... (full context)
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Zeitoun awakens to the sound of dogs howling. He immediately gets up and paddles down the... (full context)
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Though Zeitoun notices the water is growing more contaminated, he still feels invigorated at what he’s done... (full context)
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Setting back out, Zeitoun runs into Charlie Ray, a carpenter who lives next to the Claiborne house and who... (full context)
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When Zeitoun returns home, he hears a helicopter approaching. He pokes his head outside to see it... (full context)
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Zeitoun is restless and finds it difficult to sleep. He makes plans to check the office... (full context)
Part 2: Friday September 2
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This morning Zeitoun rises early to feed the dogs across the street, then heads out to check on... (full context)
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Kathy tells Zeitoun that some friends have called. Knowing Zeitoun is still in the city, they’ve asked if... (full context)
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Arriving at Tulane, Zeitoun realizes that he can walk on dry land. The property is mostly undamaged apart from... (full context)
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Zeitoun asks if Nasser wants to come with him. Though Nasser knows he’ll be safe on... (full context)
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...overpasses, their evacuations unsuccessful, and so he wants to stay in the city for now. Zeitoun mentions that there’s a working phone in the Claiborne house. As they arrive, Zeitoun runs... (full context)
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Zeitoun has never seen the couple look so tired. They’ve waited out the storm but now... (full context)
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Zeitoun paddles all the way to the intersection of Napoleon and St. Charles, where the water... (full context)
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Zeitoun and Nasser, paddling around, find an abandoned military jeep with boxes of meals, ready-to-eat (MREs)... (full context)
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...Claiborne house, Todd Gambino is sitting next to his motorboat with a dog he’s found. Zeitoun feels like God has intervened again: Todd immediately agrees to take his motorboat to Alvin... (full context)
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That night, Zeitoun realizes he’s still angry about the pastor and his wife. He wonders what the man... (full context)
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Zeitoun opens one of the photo albums he’s saved, to a photo of himself his first... (full context)
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...takes the most pictures, and there are more of him in this album than of Zeitoun. There’s one of Ahmad and his crew grilling something that looks like a dog, another... (full context)
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Initially Ahmad treated Zeitoun more harshly than the others, probably to counter suspicions of favoritism, but Zeitoun didn’t mind.... (full context)
Part 2: Saturday September 3
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In the morning Zeitoun realizes that the little food left in the freezer will be rotten by the next... (full context)
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Zeitoun and Nasser decide to check Uptown to see if anyone needs help. The canoe goes... (full context)
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Zeitoun is distraught as they paddle silently to Claiborne. He wonders if the man could have... (full context)
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That night Zeitoun, Todd, and Nasser barbecue the meat that’s left: their first social event since the storm.... (full context)
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The wind picks up and blows away from Zeitoun’s office. He thanks God, as he watches somberly. There are no sirens or signs of... (full context)
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Zeitoun recalls being on a tanker 20 years earlier in the Philippines, speaking about the existence... (full context)
Part 2: Sunday September 4
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In the morning Zeitoun picks up Nasser, drops him at the house on Claiborne, and continues alone. He chooses... (full context)
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...Street, a woman in a sparkly blue blouse calls down from a second-floor balcony, asking Zeitoun to give her a ride. Zeitoun agrees and then notices her short skirt, high heels,... (full context)
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...awaiting rescue, no one is left, but there are a dozen small dogs there. As Zeitoun approaches, he sees that they have each been killed, shot in the head. He quickly... (full context)
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Still, Zeitoun is eager to ask Kathy if the kids are in school yet. She says she’ll... (full context)
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Zeitoun wonders if the dogs had been shot by robbers, not policeman, and wonders what he... (full context)
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Once, Ahmad had roped Zeitoun into contributing to a pigeon-grooming operation, holding birds in a cage made from scrap wood... (full context)
Part 2: Monday September 5
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Zeitoun rises early to feed the dogs—Todd has given him a bag of dog food. At... (full context)
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...husband Rob calls Kathy to check on the family, and is shocked to hear that Zeitoun has stayed behind in the city. Then he mentions that he had left their cat... (full context)
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Zeitoun, Nasser, and Todd stop by Nasser’s house on the way to Rob and Walt’s, but... (full context)
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That night Zeitoun and Nasser pray together on the roof of Zeitoun’s house and barbecue. It’s quiet, apart... (full context)
Part 2: Tuesday September 6
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The next morning, Nasser tells Zeitoun that he’s ready to be evacuated. They paddle to the post-office parking lot, where an... (full context)
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They return to Claiborne, where Zeitoun decides not to tell Kathy about the helicopter. He asks her if she’s put the... (full context)
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After setting out alone, Zeitoun comes across a small military boat carrying a soldier and a man with a camera.... (full context)
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At Claiborne, Zeitoun sees a blue-and-white motorboat tied to the porch. A man is inside when Zeitoun walks... (full context)
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The water in the bathroom still works, and Zeitoun feels like his shower is a miracle. He calls his brother in Spain again, and... (full context)
Part 3: Wednesday September 7
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Kathy worries that Zeitoun hadn’t called her the day before, but Yuko tells her not to worry. At 9... (full context)
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...the mall, since Kathy’s pacing is making them anxious. Kathy calls Walt and then Adnan (Zeitoun’s cousin), telling him she’s ashamed they couldn’t stay with her. (full context)
Part 3: Thursday September 8
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The next day Kathy feels in better spirits, assuming that Zeitoun might have simply forgotten to call, but she still calls Claiborne periodically. After noon, she... (full context)
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Then Zeitoun’s family begins to call from Syria, asking if Kathy has heard from her husband. Kathy... (full context)
Part 3: Friday September 9
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...lie to her children for the first time. She tells them that she heard from Zeitoun last night. Though they are initially skeptical, they believe her, or at least want to. (full context)
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The phone rings again and Aisha, another sister of Zeitoun’s, calls to ask where he is. Kathy calmly tells her that he is fine. But... (full context)
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...and says that he’d spoken to a friend, a U.S. marshal, who had driven towards Zeitoun’s house but couldn’t reach it because of the water. He tells Kathy he’ll call a... (full context)
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All day Zeitoun’s family calls from Lattakia, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere, asking why Kathy hadn’t heard him yet,... (full context)
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...a shelter and had representatives from missing-persons agencies. Kathy brings information and a photo of Zeitoun. The Red Cross takes down all the information, telling Kathy that thousands of people have... (full context)
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...brushes her hair to comfort her, and in response to Aisha’s questions tells her that Zeitoun is not dead or drowned. Kathy realizes that Aisha’s hair is coming out in clumps... (full context)
Part 3: Sunday September 11
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It’s been six days since Kathy has spoken to Zeitoun, and she can’t make sense of it. She can’t imagine that he is still in... (full context)
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Kathy sees another email from Ahmad to the TV station that had interviewed Zeitoun, asking for information. Kathy finds a website with current photos of New Orleans from the... (full context)
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Ahmaad and Yuko reassure Kathy that Zeitoun is stubborn and plucky—it’s normal for him to be out of contact for awhile. Yuko... (full context)
Part 3: Wednesday September 14
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Kathy thinks back to the massive support network of Zeitoun’s family in Syria. She had gone with him and the kids in 2003, and the... (full context)
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In Jableh they had stayed with Abdulrahman’s brother, and had visited cousins all throughout town. Kathy had loved his family. Now she... (full context)
Part 3: Saturday September 17
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...have sent soldiers-for-hire into the city from all over the world, including Israeli commandos. Since Zeitoun is an Arab, Kathy grows even more fearful. The private-security firm Blackwater has also entered... (full context)
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...must be in the city, and wonders if one of the mercenaries might have shot Zeitoun and covered it up. But she convinces herself that the American troops on the ground... (full context)
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...visit to Málaga, Spain the year before. This reminds Kathy of the intense hike that Zeitoun had forced the family to take. As they were walking down the beach, Zeitoun noticed... (full context)
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...children, and a business. Now, whenever anything seems difficult and Kathy wants to give up, Zeitoun will tell Kathy, “Touch the rock!” (full context)
Part 3: Monday September 19
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...room. Just then, Kathy’s cell phone rings, and a man asks if this is Mrs. Zeitoun. He says he saw her husband. Kathy has to sit down. The man is a... (full context)
Part 4: Tuesday September 6
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Back in the house on Claiborne, two weeks earlier, Zeitoun is wondering when and how he might be able to leave. Now that people don’t... (full context)
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...bulletproof vests and fatigues. There are at least 10 guns in the room. They ask Zeitoun who he is, and he tells them that he’s the landlord. Zeitoun gives one of... (full context)
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Zeitoun is pushed towards the door, where Ronnie and Nasser have already been gathered onto a... (full context)
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Zeitoun assumes that this has something to do with the mandatory evacuation, and he just needs... (full context)
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...in National Guard uniforms, bulletproof vests, and sunglasses are watching them. Two of them tackle Zeitoun to the ground once they’re led off the boat: his face is pressed into the... (full context)
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The four men are herded into a large white van. Zeitoun asks one young soldier in the driver’s seat what’s going on. The soldier says he... (full context)
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They wait silently in the van for 30 minutes. Zeitoun asks one of the soldiers if he could take care of the dogs in the... (full context)
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...the van starts, and they drive to the New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal, seemingly confirming Zeitoun’s assumption that they are being forcefully evacuated. As they pull to the side of the... (full context)
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Zeitoun and the others are led inside to the main room, where it looks more like... (full context)
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...soldier why they’re here, and the soldier says that they’re al Qaeda. Todd laughs, but Zeitoun is frightened. In some ways he’s been waiting for this day since 9/11, when rumors... (full context)
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Zeitoun and Kathy have worried before about the eagerness of the Department of Homeland Security to... (full context)
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Zeitoun decides to ignore this one soldier’s words, but moments later another soldier mutters “Taliban” as... (full context)
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Zeitoun looks up at the mural occupying the upper half of the station’s malls, depicting the... (full context)
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...They find a small memory chip from a digital camera in his pocket as well. Zeitoun sees this evidence mount up, and despairs that he won’t be able to reach a... (full context)
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Finally it’s Zeitoun’s turn for processing. He is fingerprinted and his photograph Is taken. The officials take his... (full context)
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Zeitoun and Todd are brought to the back of the station, to where the buses depart.... (full context)
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For Zeitoun, this has all been surreal, but Todd rants and swears. He notes that this isn’t... (full context)
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...with their M-16s. Behind them is the loud, unceasing sound of a full-power train engine. Zeitoun realizes that this Amtrak engine is generating all the electricity for the station and jail,... (full context)
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Zeitoun is determined to get one phone call. He tries to get the attention of an... (full context)
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...that many immigrants keep their money in cash. With the Syrian names and accents of Zeitoun and Nasser, the cash, and the Mapquest printouts, they realize that they’re in deep trouble. (full context)
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For the first hours, Zeitoun is committed to making a phone call. While landlines aren’t working, there is a rumor... (full context)
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After four hours, the men are given a military-style, ready-to-eat meal of barbecued pork. Zeitoun tells the guard that he and Nasser cannot eat pork, but the guard shrugs and... (full context)
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Zeitoun suggests to Nasser that they pray, though they’re nervous about doing so in front of... (full context)
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There’s little space to sleep, but Zeitoun wants to stay awake on the off chance that a supervisor or lawyer might pass... (full context)
Part 4: Wednesday September 7
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...the morning a new guard arrives, and seems similarly convinced of the men’s guilt. But Zeitoun grows more optimistic as the day goes on, assuming that the city will stabilize and... (full context)
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Breakfast includes ham slices, so Zeitoun and Nasser can’t eat much again. Zeitoun begins to examine the new wire and portable... (full context)
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Ham sandwiches are served again for lunch, so again Zeitoun and Nasser do not eat. The presence of dogs is a constant, often barking threateningly... (full context)
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...the afternoon, one guard gives a cigarette to a prisoner in the cage next to Zeitoun’s, and then returns to the station and reappears with a television crew from Spain, who... (full context)
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Later that day a white middle-aged prisoner is brought into the cage with Zeitoun and the others. He looks clean and put together, unlike many of those who had... (full context)
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...four others how they’ve gotten here. Then he starts to ask more pointed questions to Zeitoun and Nasser, questions which don’t flow from the conversation. He talks disparagingly about the U.S.... (full context)
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Tonight there are more prisoners, more agitation, and soon the pepper spray comes out again. Zeitoun is reminded of seeing elephants in a Lebanese circus pass through Jableh as a boy:... (full context)
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Zeitoun feels enormously guilty: he knows Kathy was right, and he should have left when she... (full context)
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Exhausted and angry, Zeitoun now begins to have wild, tenuous thoughts of escape. He wonders if something awful could... (full context)
Part 4: Thursday September 8
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Zeitoun wakes to screams and curses, as guards are shooting the pepper spray through the fencing,... (full context)
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With breakfast (again with bacon) there is also a bottle of Tabasco, which Zeitoun breaks into shards on the cement. With one of them he cuts the swollen area... (full context)
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...from pepper-spraying to using a beanbag gun on prisoners. Meanwhile, Jerry keeps trying to engage Zeitoun and Nasser, asking them about Syria, their careers, their visits home. Zeitoun is increasingly unsettled.... (full context)
Part 4: Friday September 9
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Today, Zeitoun and the others are told that they’ll be moving out of what they’ve called “Camp... (full context)
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They drive north out of the city and Zeitoun sees a mass of dry land for the first time since the storm. Forty miles... (full context)
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The bus slows and Zeitoun sees a sign: the “Elayn Hunt Correctional Center,” a maximum-security prison. Most of the men... (full context)
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Upon entering, Zeitoun is greeted by two polite women who ask him about his health, medications, and food... (full context)
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Zeitoun is placed in a cement block, six by eight feet, with Nasser. The two barely... (full context)
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The pain in Zeitoun’s side is worse, becoming a throbbing ache, but he continues to think mainly of Kathy,... (full context)
Part 4: Saturday September 10
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The lights come on at 3 a.m., and Zeitoun and Nasser pray. Breakfast is sausage, which they can’t eat, and nearly inedible eggs. They... (full context)
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At midday, Zeitoun is brought to a small office to be photographed, and the photographer starts shouting at... (full context)
Part 4: Sunday September 11
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...been picked up in New Orleans after the storm, two of them in situations like Zeitoun’s. One of them was a sanitation worker from Houston, whose company had been contracted to... (full context)
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Zeitoun learns that many of the men had been brought to a makeshift court in the... (full context)
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Zeitoun’s pain in his side is growing worse and worse. He flags down the nurse who... (full context)
Part 4: Monday September 12
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Today the other four men are removed from the cell and Zeitoun and Nasser are alone again, profoundly bored. Zeitoun tries to figure out why anyone had... (full context)
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In 1987, in the midst of a war between Iran and Iraq, Zeitoun had been working on a ship called the Andromeda bringing Kuwaiti oil to Japan. Sometimes... (full context)
Part 4: Tuesday September 13
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Zeitoun can’t imagine how long his case might stretch out, but it doesn’t seem like any... (full context)
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Zeitoun isn’t given to conspiracy theories, but given the last few days, he starts to fear... (full context)
Part 4: Wednesday September 14
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Zeitoun can now barely breathe in certain positions. He waves down the nurse as she wheels... (full context)
Part 4: Thursday September 15
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Again, Zeitoun flags down the nurse, who doesn’t remember Zeitoun’s earlier request. She says the doctor probably... (full context)
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Zeitoun begins to feel faint from not eating enough, given that so many meals have pork,... (full context)
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Zeitoun tries to remember what the life insurance policy he had taken out would amount to,... (full context)
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Thinking this through, Zeitoun grows enraged at the police, the jailors, and even Ronnie, who was more of a... (full context)
Part 4: Friday September 16
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After lunch, the prisoners are allowed outside for the first time in a week. Zeitoun tries to jog, but he feels light-headed, and instead swaps stories with other prisoners. One... (full context)
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Late that afternoon, Zeitoun hears a group of guards enter the cellblock and pound down each door. He doesn’t... (full context)
Part 4: Saturday September 17
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Zeitoun has trouble sleeping but then spends his days exhausted. He still feels guilty for having... (full context)
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Zeitoun has always had faith that the machinery of government functioned in the United States, but... (full context)
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Zeitoun thinks of the term “bycatch,” a fishing term for the thousands of creatures that they’d... (full context)
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Zeitoun has been confined 23 hours a day to his cell, unable to work, read, build,... (full context)
Part 4: Sunday September 18
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Part of Zeitoun has given up, and he feels disappointed in himself. He thinks he hears the nurse’s... (full context)
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For the first time in days, Zeitoun feels hopeful, imagining Kathy’s reaction when she finds out that he’s alive. Zeitoun struggles to... (full context)
Part 4: Monday September 19
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That morning guards open Zeitoun’s cell, handcuff him, and lead him down the hall without telling him what will happen.... (full context)
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Two men who say they’re from the Department of Homeland Security greet Zeitoun and ask him what he does for a living, and why he hadn’t left the... (full context)
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...call from a man from the Department of Homeland Security. The man tells her that Zeitoun is at Hunt prison and that they have no more interest in him. Kathy asks... (full context)
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...decides to leave that day for the prison. She calls Hunt to try to reach Zeitoun, but the woman says she has no record of that name. She says that they... (full context)
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...be told where he’s been taken. Yuko and Ahmaad are unsure: Kathy isn’t certain that Zeitoun is there, or if she’ll be allowed to visit, or where she would stay. Kathy... (full context)
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Kathy calls a lawyer, Raleigh Ohlmeyer, who had helped some of Zeitoun’s workers with legal issues before and who deals with cases from traffic tickets to criminal... (full context)
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Raleigh calls Kathy back and tells him about Zeitoun, whom Raleigh has just seen in his canoe on the local news. Raleigh tells her... (full context)
Part 4: Tuesday September 20
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...the morning Ahmad calls back and tells Kathy not to tell the other siblings that Zeitoun is in prison—it’ll only make them worry more. But he asks which prison he’s in,... (full context)
Part 4: Thursday September 22
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Raleigh calls Kathy to tell her that he’s been to Hunt, and they’ve confirmed that Zeitoun is there. When Kathy calls Ahmad, he says she has to go herself, since no... (full context)
Part 4: Friday September 23
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...be helpful for her to come to Baton Rouge to assist his attempts to get Zeitoun’s case dismissed. She calls Adnan, Zeitoun’s cousin, who is relieved to hear that Zeitoun is... (full context)
Part 4: Monday September 26
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Zeitoun knows nothing about what Kathy and Raleigh are doing, and he can only hope that... (full context)
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The charges against Zeitoun, for possession of stolen property, are read aloud, and the prosecutor suggests setting bail at... (full context)
Part 4: Tuesday September 27
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Zeitoun is again handcuffed and taken out of his room to meet Raleigh. He smiles and... (full context)
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Now that Zeitoun knows that Kathy and his family know he’s alive, he doesn’t think it’s worth it... (full context)
Part 4: Wednesday September 28
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...into Hunt. The friends begin to trickle in: Rob and Walt, a woman whose house Zeitoun had renovated, and the principal at the girls’ school, among others. They all look tired... (full context)
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Raleigh is confident that the witnesses, along with Zeitoun’s lack of prior infractions, bode well for the case. They wait through the morning, and... (full context)
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...Hunt to confirm, but it is 3 p.m., and the office has closed early, so Zeitoun has to spend one more night. (full context)
Part 4: Thursday September 29
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...the waiting room. They wait until one p.m., when Kathy is told to wait for Zeitoun outside. (full context)
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Zeitoun is in his cell praying when a guard calls to him. Zeitoun thinks that the... (full context)
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...and his hair is almost all white. Kathy begins to cry, cursing those responsible. When Zeitoun sees Kathy he smiles and they try to embrace, but a guard yells at her... (full context)
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...Ahmad calls Kathy’s phone and she tells him the good news, passing the phone to Zeitoun. Ahmad can only repeat, “Praise God.” (full context)
Part 5: Fall 2008
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In the fall of 2008, Zeitoun, Kathy, and their family move back into their old house on Dart, though it’s been... (full context)
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Upon returning from Hunt, Kathy and Zeitoun had moved into the studio apartment of one of their rental units on New Orleans’... (full context)
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Though doctors could find no reason for the stabbing pain in Zeitoun’s side, he had lost 22 pounds and much hair. Slowly he regained his strength and... (full context)
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Zeitoun and Kathy returned to their home on Dart not long after his release from prison.... (full context)
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After two weeks, Kathy and Zeitoun are ready to reunite with the kids in New Orleans. Zeitoun is nervous about seeing... (full context)
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Zeitoun and Kathy begin to buy houses in their neighborhood, and soon began renovating some and... (full context)
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While Kathy and Zeitoun are originally reluctant, their friends urged them to hold those responsible for their ordeal accountable... (full context)
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A few months after Zeitoun was released, the lawyer they hired had found his arrest report. Kathy clung to the... (full context)
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In some ways, the Zeitouns are comforted that Zeitoun was not hunted and arrested purposely because he was Middle Eastern.... (full context)
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One day in 2006, Zeitoun is visiting his cousin Adnan at his Subway franchise when he sees a tall African... (full context)
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In the week after Zeitoun’s release, after he had recovered somewhat, Kathy insisted that they return to Camp Greyhound to... (full context)
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As they waited, a reporter from the Netherlands started asking Zeitoun and Kathy why they were there. Kathy didn’t hesitate to tell him about her husband’s... (full context)
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The assistant district attorney finally asked how he could help Kathy and Zeitoun. He said that the wallet was still being used as evidence, and they couldn’t have... (full context)
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Though Zeitoun felt more cautious, Kathy marched them back inside and, nearly in tears, demanded that the... (full context)
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...still young and happy-go-lucky. Now there is also Ahmad, who was born in November 2006. Zeitoun’s brother Ahmad, the namesake, still lives in Spain. Kathy works less these days, preferring to... (full context)
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...was for her, and she was surprised to realize that it was when she knew Zeitoun was alive and at Hunt, but was not allowed to see him or know when... (full context)
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...works too hard now, even while fasting, as he’s grown more religious. People ask why Zeitoun hasn’t left the United States to escape the dark memories, and he does have bitter... (full context)
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Zeitoun sometimes recalls the beauty of the canoe, which allowed him to move and listen carefully.... (full context)
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Some nights Zeitoun struggles to sleep, thinking of those who arrested and jailed him, who failed to see... (full context)
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...money to appear and insurance money to come through for his clients, but since Katrina, Zeitoun’s company has restored 114 houses. He’s proud of the projects he’s working on now, including... (full context)
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Zeitoun is happy to be free in his city, the place where he was married, had... (full context)