Dear Person Without a Name,
Every year around this time, I get a little twinge in my heart. It’s not a bad twinge. It’s more a reminder for me to remember just how closely you succeeded, and be grateful that you failed.
I didn’t think of you until about a year after the attack. In the days, weeks, and months that followed the attack, you were an abstract, thrown in with a larger group. The bad guys. The enemies. The men we saw funneling weapons from house to house on the satellite images we saw the day before.
At some point, though, it dawned on me that it was an individual who lit the fuse and took aim. It was a person — a living, breathing person — who took his hands and resources, and used them in an effort to destroy and kill.
And for the longest time, I deemed you the biggest, sorriest piece of **** out there.
As much as I learned and experienced a lot of good while deployed, there were a lot of things I found rather horrible about my experiences over there in Iraq. For a long time, there was such a simmering anger, and it was easy to waffle the blame for that whole mess on targets that ranged from my team’s leadership and their decisions, to then-President Bush and his whole administration for wasting so much time, money, resources, and precious lives over there.
It’s an odd state of being, to be so proud of my part in it, but to be so turned off and haunted by the macabre mess.
However, throughout the past five years, I’ve talked, studied, reflected, prayed, digested, and accepted the facts and circumstances of my experiences there.
Life’s moved on for me.
But for you? The person who tried to take us out? Who were you?
I do wonder.
You were probably a young man. Maybe a fundamentalist foreigner spurred by the fire of your faith and your hate for Western culture? A local Iraqi avenging the death of your family? What life circumstances led you to make the choices you did that day, and every other day during those years of bloodshed and violence?
Maybe you were killed soon after. Maybe you are still alive.
You’ll forever be a person without a name. Violent, ruthless, nameless, but still a person.
I know to you, I wasn’t even a sorry piece of *****: I was an abstract. From your perspective, my team and I were the bad guys. The enemies. The people you tried to kill.
But let me remind you: you failed that day. We — the people you were targeting – lived, and we’ve flourished.
Despite your intentions, we’ve flourished.
And as I sit here safe in my home, surrounded by the people I love, I feel pity for you and for all of those around the world whose hearts are fed by misguided faith and zealotry in which violence and bloodshed is justified. I will never understand it.
I will always be angry that such evilness is part of the human condition. I will mourn for our losses from the war for the rest of my life.
Yet as much as your actions caused such pain, they also brought so much awareness and lessons I could have never learned otherwise. I believe there is a reason for everything. Despite everything that happened, I believe our lives – no matter how different, no matter how strange — were meant to intersect that hot, horrible day in Iraq.
Solidly rooted and supported by love, family, and faith, I am truly at peace.
And from that peace comes my prayer for your own.
Earlier today, the Federal Center SW metro station smelled unusually awful. Saw one woman actually gagging. Gross!
And this is random, but listening this evening to my oldest patiently read a bedtime story to her sister in the other room assures me my kids are going to be all right.