02 May 2011

Some of Beverly Eckert's thoughts on Osama bin Laden and the 9/11 terrorists

In the summer of 2005, Beverly embarked on a long sailing voyage on her tri-maran sailboat, Never Land, captained by Shawn Monks. In all, they traveled about 1,200 miles, from Florida to the Bahamas and back, and then up the Atlantic seaboard to Stamford. Along the way, Beverly kept friends and family informed of her progress, excitedly telling of whale-sightings, nautical mis-haps, and relaxing anchorages in the Caribbean sun.

On July 18th, Beverly composed a description of the final leg of the journey. It was one of the few instances she mentioned Osama bin Laden.

As we entered NY Harbor, we passed the Statue of Liberty and then the section of Manhattan where the World Trade Center towers once stood. Sean is always with me in spirit, and he felt especially near at that moment. It's always painful to be at Ground Zero, but sailing past the location of the attacks while standing on the deck of my own boat, knowing that in contrast, bin Laden was hiding in a cave, made me feel something of a sense of triumph over terrorism.

In late 2008 and early 2009, Beverly and I worked intensively on recording her recollections about her work as a 9/11 activist. There were many hours of interviews, and thousands of pages of documents to go through. At one point I came across a series of unusual documents Beverly had produced on her computer: several pages containing the names of the 9/11 hijackers, repeated page after page. In an email, I had asked her what was going through her mind when she created this calligraphic composition. She responded in her typically thoughtful manner:

i honestly think that i wrote out their names as a way to exert control over their essence, their beings, as if i had captured them in some way. it seemed very ritualistic when i was doing it, very primitive. i could make them large and confrontational, and then shrink them to near insignificance. i could fill a page with them and then delete them. i could make them repeat themselves over and over, monotonously and endlessly, like an eternal punishment. i played with them, and then i put them in a photo frame, and locked them under glass where i could watch them but they couldn't get out.
Each one of us has had to find a way to cope with the aftermath of 9/11, and how to view the band of thugs who planned and carried out the attacks. The response of those who lost a loved one that day was shaped not only by the pain of grieving, but also by their own background and personalities. Some became motivated by hatred; others by love. Beverly saw this range of responses among the many family members with whom she worked and came in contact.

Beverly chose love. She focused on remembering the good times with Sean Rooney, the love they shared and the warm memories they made over many years. Beverly also devoted her energies to making a positive change in the world, helping others, promoting peace, finding solutions to the many failures that led to 9/11. By the force of her brave and generous heart, she in essence placed Osama bin Laden and his minions under glass, isolating them from her new life of service and remembrance, and condemning them to an eternity of insignificance and impotence.

We all have the power to deflect the emotional harm wished by others. Love and courage are invincible.

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