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.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Bless us all for our conflicted emotions

A. Wright said...

Beautifully put, Lee Ann.

--Alice

Pat BD said...

My heart goes out to Lee Ann. No one should have to endure such unbearable emotions. Your response to this heartrending time, with its variable turmoil, is eloquent and compassionate. My thoughts and prayers are for you and your family.

Marni said...

Lee Ann and Louise, my thoughts echo yours. Any death is a sadness; but in this case the death of an evil man who created such heartache is probably more justified. I think of all of the young men and women like Thomas who have given their own lives that we might live in freedom, and thank God that so many people exist to combat the few evil ones.
Godspeed Lee Ann

Diane said...

I can't pretend to even go near what you, Lee Ann, have and are experiencing but you have written beautifully about your own experience and feelings and we are blessed to have your words. Thank you Louise for inviting Lee Ann to share with us.

Cyndy said...

Thank you, Lee Ann, for sharing. We can spend a lifetime trying to make sense out of the senseless. Looking for blessings wherever they may be found makes me think of those picture puzzles, where you are challenged to find hidden objects, or find a number of things that do not fit. We assume we "see" the (big) picture, until we are challenged by the puzzles in life...you are not only puzzling this out for your self, but challenging us to look harder, think more deeply and believe, like in Louise's books, "Goodness exists.".

Barbara said...

So many young people have died or lost limbs or suffered brain injuries that I cannot comprehend the magnitude of it. On this Mother's Day I think we should all think of the mothers like Lee Ann who have lost a child to senseless war.

Colombine said...

L'armée se doit d'être pour secourir... non pour mourir...

Un coeur de mère blessé, que dis-je... disloqué, par la perte de son enfant... est inconcevable... toujours... tout le temps...

Dimanche, pensons à toutes ces mamans... privées de leur(s) rejeton(s) si chèrement présent(s)... dans leur coeur...
BONNE FÊTE À TOUTES! xo

Linda Gray said...

This brought me tears and a painfully full heart, and hope. Thank you for sharing your feelings, Lee Ann.

Cheryl said...

My heart goes out to Lee Ann and the many families who have been so terribly hurt by senseless wars. I thought you were so brave, Louise, to blog as you did about Osama's demise.
It was wonderful meeting you and visiting the Zippo Museum together when you were in Bradford. I hope you will have time to rest and relax now that you are home again.

lil Gluckstern said...

Thank you for writing, Louise and Lee Ann. I can't imagine your sorrow, and you speak well of your confusion.To feel angry is human; to mourn is there without us asking for it. Sorry, I am not sad for the sociopath who hid behind his religion. Sometimes, we sow what we reap. I am sad for all the parents and all the children who paid, and continue to do so.

Louise Penny Author said...

Thank you all for your comments. And thank you, Lee Ann, for your beautiful words.

Rosa Alba said...

While God operates outside time, we do not and have a tendency to view things in a broadly linear fashion: cause and effect. We humans tend to simplistic.
We all have to make judgment decisions based our own complex prerogatives and according to our lights (on which we will ultimately be judged, outside time).
From my different perspective and reading the press here, doubts are being cast about the democratic legitimacy of the assassination of Bin Laden. Doubts I would tend to share, but it may be a question of the greater good, which may be enough to justify the decision. However a decision based on "baying for blood" or "revenge" or "domestic political expediency" or even "domestic political gain (for Obama will forever be the man who vindicated 9/11 and laid Bin Laden to rest: no one will question his birth certificate now, in fact he has bought himself immortality, wittingly or not, with the life of Bin Laden). Only time will tell whether he is a Saviour, a Pilate or a Pandora whose act unleashed newer and more blood-thirsty leaders of an organisation deeply set on the downfall of the West.
I remember the troubles of the 70s and the fear, even here in Scotland, far less the repercussions felt by those from the North (of Ireland), I know the all-invasive horror of the Dunblane Massacre and the paralysing aftershocks in our small nation - I cannot imagine the implications of 9/11 to a nation whose sovereign soil had rarely, if ever, been sullied by outside enemy acts (Scotland's sovereign invulnerability too often successfully challenged - and this is the mark of difference).
But a man's life was taken, and if Christians we are to believe, every hair on that head - individually, irrespective of his own victims, directly or indirectly - was counted.
Or, simplistically, two wrongs do not make a right; simplistically because that death does not atone, far less bring back those who perished in 9/11; I am not sure that the war in Iraq would not have come about in all eventualities, albeit that it might "have gone down" differently.
None of this brings back Thomas, who I did not know but - bizarrely in this small world - my son's Panda is named for Thomas, as we got to know Lee Ann, remotely and in person, after Thomas' death. My son lights candles for Thomas, and is convinced that our aged moribund dog will be adopted in Heaven by Thomas. None of this brings back Thomas, however it may immortalise his memory. And it does immortalise his memory in the mind of one 8 year old and make real to that 8 year old the cost of war: a mammy who has lost her eldest son; a dead boy who my Boy will surpass in age and experience before long.
In this rising sun of the New Dawn of Scottish Politics and the real, wonderful prospect of being able to determine our future and nationhood three hundred years after being sold for English gold to English dominion, I hope my rising son as the generation that may forge the adulthood of this prospective Nation reborn, will always balance the real individual cost of human life against political or economic gain.