Dinner With Obama and Indian Prime Minister Delights Mesa Restaurant Owner Whose Brothers were Slain

An Indian restaurant owner whose brother was slain in Mesa after the September 11, 2001 attacks attended Tuesday's state dinner with President Obama and the Indian Prime Minister.

The Arizona Republic reports that Rana Singh Sodhi and his wife, Sukhbir Kaur, dined at the White House with 338 people -- and shook the hands of Obama, the First Lady and Hillary Clinton. He even got a hug from Janet Napolitano. (We're not sure if they met the now-infamous party crashers).

Sodhi is a partner at the Guru Palace at Gilbert and Baseline roads in Mesa. He's also one of the subjects of a 2008 PBS documentary called "A Dream in Doubt," which describes how he and his four brothers came to the United States in search of a better life. Rana and brother Harjit, owner of the Indian Delhi Palace in Phoenix, found success. Brothers Balbir and Suhkpal became victims of murder.

The shooting of Balbir Singh Sodhi on September 15, 2001, by nutbag racist Frank Roque of Mesa proved an international embarrassment as well as a tragedy for the Sodhi family. Roque proved that some Americans were no better than the terrorists -- and stupid, too: Roque mistook Sodhi, a Sikh Indian with no more connection to Islamic terrorism than a Southern Baptist, simply because the man wore a turban.

Suhkpal, a San Francisco taxi driver, was gunned down in an apparent robbery in 2002.

Rana told the Repub:

"They invited me because my family got hurt and they respect my family," Rana Singh Sodhi said. "You feel like you are in a wonderful country that people, after nine years, still remember."

Valley residents who felt the sting of shame from Roque's insane, hate-crime attack will never forget.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.
Contact: Ray Stern