To Cairo with a Casket

By: 
Roberto Vazquez

Yassin Abrahim

Detective Macias of the LBPD  Robbery Division, arrived at the AM/PM on Atherton at Bellflower, after 8 p.m. on Jan. 2.

As the detective politely introduced himself, Fady Sultan explained to this reporter why it’s a dangerous job working nights at a gas station. Sultan said theft is common but this time was different.

“This was the first time,” referring to the gun used in that morning’s robbery. “My mother wants me to leave this job.”

Sultan, who turned 23 on New Year’s Eve, looks downcast. His mind is elsewhere, his eyes are heavy, his shoulders sag.

He talks about Christmas Eve, when Hady “Yassin” Abrahim, his best friend and co-worker, was on the phone, “He wanted to talk about our plans for Christmas and New Year’s.”

Just after 10 p.m., however, Abrahim was struck by a speeding vehicle as he walked across Atherton. The vehicle fled the scene and Abrahim died the following Monday.

Dreams Die

Abrahim and Sultan grew up in Cairo, Egypt, best friends since the 6th grade, dreaming of attending college in the U.S. and traveling the world. “He would say to me, ‘I want to travel with you.’ He wanted us to go to Europe, especially Paris.”

They worked at the AM/PM seven days a week, with plans to buy a business of their own.

“It’s hard to lose somebody that close to you. We had plans for the future, we had a lot of plans. He wanted to get a degree, buy a house and build a family,” Sultan said.

Sultan is pre-med at Cerritos College and wants to one day, “be a neurosurgeon and build my family.” Abrahim wanted to be a pharmacist.

After the robbery detective left, Sultan was alone with his thoughts. He said, “I’m sad, really sad. I lost a brother!” He added, “He was part of my family, my dad loved him, he considered him a son. He was loved by my family.”

Sultan looked numb as he spoke, older than 23, realizing life would never be the same again, feeling all of Abrahim’s lifelong dreams end on Christmas Eve.

Statistics

According to a report in October of 2021 by the U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in the first six months more than 20,000 people died on U.S. roads, a nearly 20% increase from 2020.

Secretary Pete Buttigieg said at the time, “This is a crisis… leaving countless loved ones behind.”

Later this month the NHTSA will release the National Roadway Safety Strategy, which includes nine additional Proven Safety Countermeasures.

The 28 countermeasures will now include improvements such as crosswalk visibility enhancements, lighting, variable speed limits and speed safety cameras.

Neighbors Complain

Along Atherton Street, several residents shared their views.

Bree and Bennett Brown live a short distance from AM/PM. They are very familiar with the traffic issues. Bree Brown said, “You literally can drive 60 in a 35 mile zone. People do it all the time.” She added, “We’d like to see one of those blinking crosswalks, those are good.”

Bennett Brown added, with a smile, “Then, people can get to the park.”

On Montair Avenue, Elicia Richmond and Donel Maher are longtime friends and neighbors. Maher is the one who called 911.

Richmond, whose older daughter knew Abrahim, said, “I want a speed bump on the corner of Montair, off of Atherton. It’s like the 405 freeway. This street needs a barrier, and the curve is also an issue.”

As they spoke, more than a dozen vehicles exited the AM/PM, making dangerous left turns onto Atherton against oncoming traffic.

Richmond added, “There’s not one safe place for pedestrians to cross Atherton between Bellflower and Clark. Not one!”

Maher said, “It’s like nobody cares anymore. It’s like a race track here,” noting the high rate of speed and the lack of motor patrol by LBPD.

For Angel Arenas and his daughter Christine, the situation on Atherton is troubling. Their residence is closer to Clark, where they’ve experienced a number of incidents involving thefts, burglaries, car break-ins, accidents and speeding.

Arenas said, “It’s so bad at night. The street is really dark, which allows for crime.” He challenged a reporter to come back at night time. “I bet you can’t see anything,” adding, “we’ve been twice broken into.” His daughter said, “Between Ximeno and Bellflower, it’s too long in between traffic signals.”

Going Home

Sultan is worried about getting his friend’s body back to Egypt, the heavy costs involved, and tying all the loose ends of Abrahim’s life and short, 15-month stay in America.

He says it will cost about $30,000 to get the coffin back to Egypt and hopes to accompany Abrahim’s remains. He added, “The Egyptian Consulate has done nothing to help. Maybe it’s the new year, the holidays, to be fair.”

He may reach out to Congressman Alan Lowenthal, if “the situation isn’t resolved soon” by Egyptian authorities.

There is a cloud lingering over the store since Abrahim passed away. His co-workers Rosa Maldonado and Robert Hammerton worked with him for only a short time.

Maldonado, who worked with Abrahim for seven months, said in Spanish, “Yassin was always cordial, helpful and easygoing. We got along real well.”

Hammerton said, “I only worked with him for two months. He was always working, never late. The last thing he did was hand me two $5 lottery tickets.” According to Hammerton, one of the tickets was worth $100.

Sultan can only look forward to the day he can finally take Abrahim home, to be buried next to his beloved mother.

After all, final wishes are what best friends do, and Hady “Yassin” Abrahim would want Fady Sultan to honor his last trip to Egypt.

To Cairo, with love.

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