She had been a child of ten, up there on the Plain of Jars in 1971, working on clearing a road near her village along with other villagers. Suddenly an airplane came over and dropped its bombs. She was hit in her left foot. “It hurt terribly!”, she said, and she was crippled for life. She told her story softly, as the survivors so often do. “How did she feel towards those who had bombed her?”, she was asked. Suddenly her demeanor changed, tears formed in her eyes. “I am still angry about it”, she answered, “it ruined my life! My life has been so miserable ever since. I couldn’t find a husband, no husband would marry me! I couldn’t have children, a family. I am all alone. I have had to work so hard!”
As she talked Channapha, who was translating, stopped and began to cry. She could talk no more. Vivi, next to her, also facing the woman, began to weep also. I stood there in shock, having a flashback to 1970, remembering conversations like this day after day, week after week, month after month, as I took visitors out to the camps while the bombing was murdering and maiming new lovely people like this daily. Of the dozens I took out to the camp, only two weeped: Noam Chomsky and Flora Lewis, the N.Y. Times columnist. I felt particularly close to them, as I did this day to Channapha and Vivi.
I asked Channapha about her reaction afterwards. “I looked at the woman, I looked at Vivi, and it was like an invisible current passed between us, we were all together in that instant”.
I guess it’s the ability of the members and supporters of Legacies of War to feel that invisible current that sustains our organization. I guess also it is that invisible current that so many others feel that is the only hope of our increasingly mad nation, so consumed by fear that it tolerates slowly becoming a police-state and ongoing war-making that creates tens of thousands of more victims while only making us weaker.
Afterwards I thought of the contrast between the pilots that bombed that village that day and the ten-year old girl whose life they would thoughtlessly ruin. I thought of the layers of multi billion aircraft attacking villages lacking running water and electricity, dropping their expensive bombs, and their pilots returning home to a good lunch, nap, and evening of carousing at one of the many nearby bars. Their war ended when their tour ended. They never even thought of those for whom the war would never end, broken victims who would still, forty years later, be paying the price for their acts.
But mostly, I remembered the tear.
It was in the corner of her right eye, and it remained there throughout our talk.
I could not stop looking at it.
I remember it now.