It was the enduring American dream, for a better education and opportunities, that brought Mohammad A. and Begum Azim and their two sons to the United States from Bangladesh.
With help from Mohammad’s eldest sibling, Mohammad Alim, the family emigrated and settled in Cheektowaga just two months ago. The sons, 12-year-old Mujtoba Rafid and 19-year-old Mohammad Abid, were getting ready for the upcoming school year.
But the family’s dream was shattered Monday when Mujtoba was killed by a car as he and his brother rode their bicycles to a nearby education center where English language classes are offered.
“He had a lot of dreams … to come to this country, make a better life for his parents,” Mohammad Alim said Tuesday as the family prepared for his nephew’s funeral.
Riding east on Walden Avenue at noontime Monday, the brothers were in the crosswalk at the intersection of Harlem Road when Mujtoba was hit by two vehicles in the left-turn lanes. According to Cheektowaga police, a sport utility vehicle hit the back tire of Mujtoba’s bicycle, then a car hit him.
The boy was dragged 15 to 20 feet, his uncle said. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Mujtoba’s brother saw it happen “in front of his eyes,” their uncle said.
The older brother left his bicycle and ran after the second car, knocking on the window, saying, “Stop. You hit my brother.”
“How could you not know you ran over something?” the brothers’ uncle asked.
Mujtoba was an experienced bicyclist and had, on previous occasions, safely crossed the same intersection on his way to stores in Thruway Plaza, relatives said.
Mujtoba was a “very smart boy, very smart boy,” said Farhana Alim, his aunt. “He was always careful with the street.”
The brothers had pushed the traffic-control button, and the signals on Harlem Road were red as they started across, according to relatives.
Police offered this theory of what happened:
“What we believe is they saw the red lights for the southbound lanes. As they crossed in front of the left-turn lanes, those lights turned green,” said Cheektowaga Police Lt. Steven E. Berecz. Neither driver was charged, which was a bitter pill for Mujtoba’s family to swallow.
“This is not justice; this is not right,” said Mujtoba’s aunt. She and her husband said that when they learned to drive here, they were taught that a pedestrian in the crosswalk has the right of way.
Mohammad Alim had this message for motorists: “Be careful. Be careful. Be careful.”
Mujtoba was scheduled to enter seventh grade in the Cheektowaga Central School District. “So intelligent, always first place” his aunt said.
“I know,” his uncle added, “America needs this kind of boy.”