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March 13, 2006


I was waiting for the D train to take me up to Lehman College in the Bronx on Saturday evening, where I was going to see Sleeping Beauty. An older lady, voluble and friendly, came up to me because she saw me knitting a hat and wanted to talk about teaching her grandson to knit. At first I froze, waiting for the inevitable "I'll bet you find that relaxing." But that never came, she knitted herself and we got to talking. She was with three companions, two of whom were French including a middle-aged French-Arab woman. I started talking French with them to try and be welcoming. The Arab lady was very nice - from Narbonne, near Montpellier. I took out a lace project, that impressed her far more than the simple hat. "C'est un châle." I said, doing my best in my rusty French.

They were going to the same stop as me, but not to Lehman for the show so to make small talk I asked the American lady where they are going. "A human rights meeting." She sounded embarrassed so I apologized and explained I only meant generally. "You don't frighten easily?" she asked. I said no, but I was bracing myself. The Arab (more accurately Moroccan) woman, Aicha, is the mother of Zacarias Moussaoui. The American woman I was talking to lost her son in the Towers. Through his trial, they have become close.

I had no idea what to say. By this point Aicha had moved to the other side of the subway car to speak with another of her companions and I was talking only to this woman (she's not a public figure, so I don't wish to identify her.) I asked about her son, but I knew his story even before she told it. I had heard it a hundred times. Cantor Fitzgerald, this time in the IT department. Memories of the days immediately after, the color xeroxes of the missing lining the walls of the subway stations, the candles in Union Square Park, the raw shock and pain of the bereaved, the acrid stink in the air came back. I told her I was impressed with her.

Going out of the train, my friend Mary caught me - we were going to the performance together, but had to travel seperately and didn't know we were on the same train. I said my goodbyes to the ladies; we went down the hill towards Lehman and they went up to their meeting.

There's no moral to this story. 3000 people are still dead. We're trying to kill another man, and he's no innocent but it hasn't yet been proven that he had anything to do with it. And someone who lost their son finds the way she can make sense of it is to work for mercy.

Posted by Leigh Witchel at March 13, 2006 11:06 PM

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Thank you for the story. There is a wonderful saying I learnt here in Philly. I think it's a Quaker motto:

There is no way to peace. Peace is the way.

Posted by: GWTW at March 14, 2006 12:07 PM

A beautiful heart string tugging tale. Mom's are moms, they are part of the innocents that are always hurt by things like this. They too are the victims wether they are american arab or what ever nationality or race...

Thank you for your grace and for your wonderful tale.

Posted by: Ken Jackson CPO USN Ret. at March 14, 2006 08:03 PM

It is interesting to watch this government and this trial.
I can't figure out if they are trying to bail out because they don't have the goods to have Moussaoui get the death penalty and they will look foolish to the world or, as the email said the defense can drive a truck through the evidence.
The incompetence goes on and on.

Posted by: diane at March 14, 2006 08:03 PM

Wow, Thanks for telling us this story.

Posted by: chowder at March 14, 2006 08:15 PM

Hey Leigh! This is Eric-- former room-mate of Andrea and Ms. Dirty Martini, designer of the Dance As Ever logo that I see you're still using! Came across this entry via Americablog. Crazy story. Maybe we should send a leather-clad Arnold Schwarzenegger back in time to teach a young Ms. Moussaoui the basics of birth control. Next time you're in SF, let me know, I'm living here. Won't be able to recommend any gay bars, though Daddy's has $2 beers on Tuesdays...

Posted by: Eric at March 14, 2006 08:15 PM

"There is no way to peace. Peace is the way." - Mahatma Gandhi

Posted by: Milo Johnson at March 14, 2006 09:39 PM

Wow...has ever a little vignette been so heartwarming & chilling simultaneously....?

Posted by: Crab at March 15, 2006 01:44 AM

Incredible story, very movingly told. Now with the witness tampering how can one not feel that Zacarias Moussaoui might be being railroaded? And what of the hundreds who have been held for years on offshore bases...

Posted by: CincyGuy at March 15, 2006 05:16 AM

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