At first, James Michael Herrick didn’t believe the 7-Eleven cashier who told him a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. He thought she was joking.
But then after purchasing a cup of coffee and a hot dog on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Herrick returned home and turned on the the television.
“There it is, the other plane hit. It was for real,” he said. “I started drinking about that time. . . . I, probably like everyone else at that point, was in shock.”
Herrick turned to alcohol, and after two days of drinking and watching nonstop coverage of the turmoil, Herrick, in a drunken daze, attempted to burn down the Curry in a Hurry restaurant on State Street.
Herrick’s unsuccessful attempt to burn down the restaurant owned by a family of Pakistani immigrants came at a time of national backlash against Muslims. It was, perhaps, the most published case of an anti-Muslim offense in Utah, where cases of discrimination and crimes have occurred, but are scattered, according to the members of the Muslim community.
And he has since expressed remorse. During a parole hearing last year, Herrick asked the Board of Pardons and Parole to “Please accept my sincerest apology,” for an action he called embarrassing and idiotic.
Two members of the family that owns Curry in a Hurry, Yassir Nisar and his father, Rana, say they have forgiven Herrick for the attack against them.
While those involved in the Curry in a Hurry case seem to have reconciled their differences, some members of the Muslim community say the climate here is different than it was before 9/11.
Muslims interviewed by the Deseret Morning News acknowledge Utah is safer for Muslims than some other parts of the country where mosques are still sometimes the targets of vandalism or worse. However, the Muslim and non-Muslim communities continue five years after the terror attacks to struggle to understand one another.