June 4, 2011

THE DEATH OF AN AMERICAN:

Hetherington Doctrine: In light of the death of his great friend and frequent collaborator Tim Hetherington, Sebastian Junger reflects on Tim’s legacy and his theories about Middle Eastern turmoil, as well as the role the United States—and all Western democracies—must take to ensure an end to radicalism. (Sebastian Junger, June 3, 2011, Vanity Fair)

Last week at the First Presbyterian Church of New York my friends and colleagues and I said good-bye to photographer Tim Hetherington, who was killed in combat in Misrata, Libya, a month earlier. My wife and I sat behind Tim’s parents and siblings and watched their shoulders shudder with quiet sobs as people spoke. Tim grew up in England and the family had flown over for the service. Behind us were three journalists who had been in Misrata and miraculously survived the mortar that had landed in their midst killing not only Tim but an American photographer named Chris Hondros and several Libyan rebels. Across the aisle was Idil, Tim’s girlfriend of one year whose parents had emigrated from Somalia.

Tim had been schooled by Jesuits and perhaps as a result had gone through his life profoundly unreligious, so the service was secular. Following a rendition of Schubert’s heartbreaking Trio #2 in E Flat, two reggae musicians played Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” and “One Love” between eulogies. I watched the pastor’s eyebrow arch in concern and then appreciation as Marley’s message of human understanding filled the church. Finally four American vets stood up, men from Battle Company of the 173rd Airborne who had been under fire with Tim and me many times in eastern Afghanistan. They filed out of their pew carrying two folded American flags that had been sent by Senator John McCain, himself a veteran of Vietnam. The young men presented my country’s flag to the Hetherington family and then to Idil.

I missed most of that beautiful moment because I was crying too hard, but later I did savor one comforting thought: this may be one of the few countries in the world where a senator would see fit to present the national flag to a woman of Somali origin in honor of an Englishman killed in Libya.

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Posted by at June 4, 2011 5:23 AM
  

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