Thursday, 5 May 2011
The bells that still can ring...
rain, a damp cold, temp 6
Back home in Sutton. Feels as though we've been a long time gone.
When Osama Bin Laden was killed I spoke about it on Facebook, and here on the blog. Trying to describe my emotions. But I recognized I couldn't begin to feel anything close to what someone who lost a loved one on 9/11 felt. Or the friends and family of those who have died in the wars, sparked by that attack by Al Qaeda.
Lee Ann Doerflinger wrote a comment after my post. Her son Thomas was killed in Iraq. I've asked her to put on paper how she feels about the death of Osama Bin Laden. Below is both her comment to my post, and then her own thoughts. The young man in the photo is, of course, Thomas - the only picture Lee Ann has of him in Iraq. You can see the storm gathering behind him. Lee Ann took a few days trying to write how to felt. Trying to figure it out herself. To tease out the conflicting emotions, to put words to howls. And to listen to the whispers.
Last night she sent me this:
It is a very difficult moment. I do not rejoice that another human being has lost his life--it seems to me that enough people have died in this conflict--but there was also no way for justice to be served by leaving him alive. And yes, maybe Thomas would be alive if 9/11 had never happened. But, it *did* happen and we did lose Thomas and many other young people. I'll admit, I sat there last night, weeping confused tears. Something is over: now we need to figure out what that something is.
Lee Ann, Thomas's mom (My comment on Louise’s blog entry on Osama bin Laden’s death)
Readers of Louise’s blog know that my son Thomas, Army SPC Thomas K. Doerflinger, was killed in action on November 11th, 2004. Louise has invited me several times to write about him and about my family’s work to memorialize Thomas and others who have fallen during this conflict. Thomas died in Iraq, in an action that presumably had not much to do with Al Qaida (though who knows? So much is hidden in this war). However, my family is all too aware that Thomas might not have volunteered or died if bin Laden had never existed or if he’d been killed or captured at one of the many earlier opportunities that had arisen. So when word came Sunday night that bin Laden was dead, we were relieved that this man would never plan another attack or recruit another terrorist. I cried. I called my sister on the West Coast to share the good news. We watched the President’s speech and the college students outside the gates of the White House. I briefly contemplated joining them but midnight was way past my bedtime.
And then came the realization that a man, no matter how evil, had died. It is always a serious matter to take a life, no matter how justified taking that life might be. I do believe that it was justified. Our enemy is dead. But, as I said in my comment on Louise’s post: enough people have died. Another death is not cause for celebration, though the death of this particular man is cause for relief.
Finally, I was caught in that paradoxical moment when I realized that Osama bin Laden did terrible things that gave rise to terribly beautiful things: national unity, friends of the heart. My grief for Thomas has changed me, whether for better or worse is yet to be determined. I have met people and made friends who would never have come my way if Thomas had not died the way he did. My country is a different place than it would have been if no one had died an unnatural death on September 11, 2001: we rediscovered our own strength as we stood amidst the collapsed girders and concrete dust and a crater in a field, mourning our dead.
Osama bin Laden’s death will not give us back our beloved dead. But we who survive can go on in their honor, grateful for their memory and rebuilding the future our fallen bought with their lives.
Thank you, Lee Ann.