He and the rest of his family were searching for clues to relieve their anguish: How could Sami have driven 90 miles an hour last weekend on the Key Bridge? How did he die when the two passengers survived?
“I don’t know what made Sami do this,” said his brother Rabi Ullah, 27, a Leesburg real estate investor, picking up bits of the BMW. “He’d only drive fast on straightaways.” It was Rabi who tested the car’s maximum velocity, once gunning it to 140 miles per hour on the Beltway, he said.
Their father, Amjad Mahmood — who immigrated to Northern Virginia in the 1980s, found work as a Pizza Hut dishwasher and eventually transformed himself into a millionaire real estate investor — could barely speak.
“I am just confused,” said Mahmood, 50, looking for spots of Sami’s blood on the ground.
Dedicated and driven
Sami was the youngest in the family. He was also the smartest. At Heritage High School in Loudoun County, his friends and family said, he always got high grades and dreamed of attending Virginia Tech. His posse of friends — other young Muslims bound by their love of Kobe Bryant, the Koran and kabob joints — sometimes skipped classes, and tried wooing Sami to do the same.
“He’d always say, ‘No, I need to finish my class,” said longtime friend Mohammed Salous, 22, a Strayer University student. “He was the most successful out of all of us.”
Sami was wedded to his faith. He slept beneath a plaque inscribed with a Muslim prayer. During the holy month of Ramadan, he helped spread out the prayer rugs and prepare pitchers of water for the three-hour services held at the Leesburg branch of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society.
“And as soon as everyone left, he’d take all the rugs away. He knew how to read the Koran. He was always in touch with God,” Salous said. “That was because of his parents.”
Sami’s father came to America first.
Raised on a farm in a village in eastern Pakistan, Mahmood wanted to live in America, home to his favorite movies and Olympic teams, and escape what he thought was a place too impoverished to raise children. His own father, a mailman, dismissed Mahmood’s ambitions as naive.
But Mahmood persisted, and in 1987 he amassed enough money to fly to the United States. By then, he was a married father of two children. For the next 10 years, he lived apart from his family in Pakistan while he built a new life for them thousands of miles away.
In Northern Virginia, Mahmood worked two jobs: manufacturing residential doors and washing dishes and delivering pizzas for Pizza Hut.
One day, Mahmood was delivering pizzas to an imposing home in Leesburg. He promised himself, if he delivered enough pizzas and made enough doors, he would buy one just like it.