Monday, December 12, 2005

With Sympathy

Recently a fellow Montreal blogger, Zura, posted that a friend had been taken hostage in Iraq. Harmeet Sooden was taken hostage on Nov. 26 along with another Canadian, an Englishman, and an American. They went over for humanitarian reasons and were captured by the Swords of Righteousness Brigade. The latest reports are that all four are alive and doing well. We hope for Harmeet and everyone that knows him that he comes back safe and sound. From an article in Scoop magazine in New Zealand:

In an email to his friends Harmeet described the purpose of the four-person team"s work in Iraq as: "providing humanitarian aid in the form of training and documentation of non-violent responses to lethal inter-group conflict. We will also record the current conditions in Iraq, meeting with representatives of NGOs, Christian and Muslim clerics, Iraqi human rights groups and others". He also recounted a story from Iraq: "A little 3-year old girl, Alaa, ran up to me and gave me a big hug me yesterday. She reminds me of my niece. She, however, does not see as my niece sees. She sustained severe shrapnel injuries to her abdomen and micro-fragments peppered her eyes, face and body during a US military attack in May on al Qaim, Iraq. Her mother lost an eye. She lost two brothers and several other relatives".

In trying to sympathize with what Zura and her friends are going through, I thought back to three similar situations that occured to me.

Through all four years of high school, I sat in front of Jaime during homeroom. Although he tended to give off a tough guy aire in the halls, he was always very nice with me. Shortly after we graduated, I heard that he had been killed in a motorcycle accident. It was the first time that someone I knew of my age had passed away. It's a similar feeling as having a childhood figure passing, but does not have the deep sorrow of a close friend or relative. Sad, achy, and a bit disorienting.

In my second year of college, those of us in architecture were a fairly close group. That happens with long nights in studio spent together. One night a bunch of us were there late and some other students popped in before they left for Indianapolis for the weekend. I talked to one of them, Bill, for 15 or 20 minutes. About what, I can't remember. Turns out he contracted spinal meningitis and didn't make it past the weekend. This was similar to Jaime, but a bit jolting in that the sickness took him so quickly and I had just talked to him.

Lastly, a member of a white supremisist group went on a three-day shooting spree in 1999 killing two blacks, a Korean, and injuring others. At the beginning of his spree he passed through the highly Orthodox Jewish Chicago neighborhood of West Rogers Park. He drove through the neighborhood shooting at people on the street. He was a poor marksman and only injured my cousin Ephraim striking him in the knee. He was fortunate and I recently learned that he enrolled in the Israeli army. This one hit home how your life can be touched by angry extremists. They are not only those you read in the papers in far away lands.

So again, I really hope Harmeet comes away unharmed and puts to rest the fears of his family and friends. I know the feeling.

3 comments:

zura said...

Thanks for your post, Frank. It is a strange, eerie feeling to have in such matters. These things always happen to "other people".

Frank said...

Yes, even the one degree of separation through you makes me feel connected to the situation. I suspect as we grow older and the circle of people we know grows, connections to people in the news will increase.

Paolo said...

When visiting my brother, in Vancouver, a few years ago, tragedy struck a friend of his.

My brother is what you might call an extreme athelete, and so are many of his friends. This friend in particular was a mountain climber, and had travelled extensively, climbing major mountains. And yet, surprisingly, he died by falling asleep at the wheel and slammed into a tree, while home in Vancouver.

I had never seen my brother cry until that day.