Commentary

Saunders: Asking the Triangle’s help for a hero

bsaunders@newsobserver.comJanuary 12, 2014 

Ryan Perlowin never met Aitazaz Bangash, had never even heard of Bangash, a Pakistani teenager, until a suicide bomber blew him up – along with the bomber himself – outside a school building in which hundreds of students were gathered.

They were outside the school only because Bangash, 14, sensed something wasn’t right with the man asking him for directions to the school – despite wearing a school uniform – and confronted him.

In an account confirmed by police, Bangash and the man began struggling outside the school’s main gate and a bomb went off, killing them both. Many more people could have been killed had Bangash not tackled the bomber.

That’s why Perlowin, of Chapel Hill, wants to do something to honor Bangash’s heroism – this is an instance in which that word can really be used – and help his family.

“I saw the news about this kid who really just sacrificed himself to save his classmates, and I just kind of jumped on it,” he told me last week when explaining his fledgling fundraising effort for Bangash’s father and four siblings.

“I have no connection yet to the family in Pakistan. I don’t know have a big circle of influence. I just want to get this out there and see if we could get this going. ... It’s not really about the money, but when someone does something like this – especially a kid – his family deserves to know how thankful everybody is.”

When I spoke with Perlowin, a 2009 graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill with a marketing background, he said the effort so far had raised “just a little bit over a hundred bucks from five or six people I know.”

He hopes to reach people he doesn’t know by making his pitch on www.indiegogo.com, the website on which people appeal directly to people with soft hearts and a few extra bucks to contribute to what they consider worthy causes. A recent news story spotlighted the effort of a former N&O writer who’d fallen on hard economic times to raise some moolah to pay his rent.

Thanks to the kindness of mostly strangers on that site, he raised enough to pay it for several months.

Perlowin understands that most people tend to get skeptical when beseeched by people with do-good efforts that require them to part with their money, doesn’t he?

“I would totally understand that,” he said. “If we launch a campaign on Indiegogo.com, people are going to ask, ‘Is this money going to go to the family?’ It will, but I’d be skeptical, too.”

Indiegogo calls itself “an international crowdfunding platform to raise money.”

How, I asked, does Perlowin plan to get whatever money he raises to Bangash’s family?

“I have a friend who’s from Pakistan, and when he saw my online post, he said he’s got family on the ground there, very close to the town where this boy is from. That could be one way,” Perlowin said.

“A more reputable way, I think,” he said, “would be that if we make anything of this campaign, to reach out to the people who are on the front line in Pakistan – the reporters – who already have been in contact with the family. I’d like to reach out to them and get the money to (the family) that way.”

He said he thinks enlisting reporters with national news organizations would abate some of the skepticism and lend credibility to his altruistic effort.

Credibility? From journalists?

OK.

Perlowin, 26, said he’s “been moved by lots of stories” in the past, “but I think this one, because it’s a kid who sacrificed himself to save all of these other kids, it hit me more.”

bsaunders@newsobserver.com or 919-836-2811

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