Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Lebanon Native, Entrepreneur Learned When 'One Door Closes, God Opens Another'

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Lebanon Native, Entrepreneur Learned When 'One Door Closes, God Opens Another'

Article excerpt

Rabih Fahed never gives up.

When he was 12, in his native Lebanon, he was badly hurt in a bicycle accident. Rabih had a blood clot in his brain and had to undergo surgery. He was in a coma for 32 days. Doctors told his family that Rabih had just a 5 percent chance of survival. He beat the odds.

"If I didn't, Pittsburgh would not have had me," Rabih says.

When he came to Pittsburgh in 2000 at age 14, Rabih spoke no English. His grandmother already lived in Mount Washington, where she settled in 1989 with her husband, who died by the time Rabih's family arrived in the U.S. on a visitor's visa. Rabih, his parents, two siblings and his uncle stayed with her.

The next year, Rabih started working at his uncle's Middle Eastern restaurant on the South Side.

That job, as exhausting as it was for a teenager, allowed him to enroll at a private school that was willing to take him since he was paying out of his own pocket. That's how Rabih became one of 355 students at Seton-La Salle High School in the South Hills. No one spoke his language there.

"One of the worst things that happened to me was Sept. 11," he said. "The attacks happened when I was at school. And everyone said right in my face, 'You came from over there. You are the terrorist.' "

"I went through hell in school," Rabih remembered.

His fellow students put up signs with his picture on them. "Vote Osama for Class President," they read.

"How can you fight back when you don't speak the language? They were just pointing fingers at me and I had no idea what they were saying. That was the worst time when I was ready to quit. I couldn't deal with it," he said.

In spite of the challenges - or maybe because of them - Rabih worked hard on English and his other studies and graduated from high school in 2003.

At that point, he was considered an undocumented immigrant who overstayed his visa. …

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