A Mother’s Words
By Kathy Eldon
I am here today as a mother, representing not only myself, as Dan Eldon’s mother, but standing in for the mothers of Hansi Kraus, Hos Maina and Anthony Macharia. I have met all of these women, and know the grief and pain they have suffered in the past nine months as we each try to accept the finality and immensity of our loss.
Our hearts were broken last July 12, when Dan, Hansi, Hos, and Anthony were stoned and beaten to death following a UN bombing raid on a house thought to contain General Aideed’s followers. In that raid, some 55 Somalis were killed and another 150 were wounded. Many were respected village elders.
Dan and his colleagues were taken under protection to record the disaster. As they began to shoot the carnage for the world to see, the mob turned on them, enraged by the death and mutilation of so many innocent people and virtually tore the journalists apart. I know Dan and his colleagues would want us to remember the 55 Somalis who died that day, and for tonight, I would like to represent their mothers.
Let us also add to our list of memories the others of the 52 other journalists and photographers who were killed while doing their jobs last year. And please, today, let me represent for you the mothers of the hundreds of thousands of men, women and children who died as a result of war last year. Their pain is my pain, and tonight, let me share it with you.
War affects people. It affects those of us who must watch television and read the paper, and it also affects those among you who must seek out the news and relay it to us.
Dan, at 21, was not a seasoned photographer when he arrived in Baidoa to cover an unknown famine in June 1992. He was devastated by what he saw, and nine months later, when he was more accustomed to the sights of war, he wrote this in a book he produced on Somalia: “After my first trip to Somalia, the terror of being surrounded by violence, and the horrors of the famine threw me into a dark depression. Even journalists who had covered many conflicts were moved to tears. But for me, this was my first experience with war. Before Somalia I had only seen two dead bodies in my life. I have now seen hundreds, tossed into ditches like sacks. The worst things I could not photograph. “One Sunday morning, they brought in a pretty girl, wrapped in a colorful cloth. I saw that both her hands and feet had been severed by shrapnel. Someone had tossed a grenade in the market. She looked like she was dead. But the nurse said she would survive. It made me think of the whole country. Somalia will survive, but what kind of life is it for a people that have been so wounded? I don’t know how these experiences have changed me, but I feel different.”
Dan had to shut down his heart to do his job. We all do. The pain would be too great. We live in a tormented, fragmented world. Those leaders we have seem powerless to bring us vision. We have no Gandhi., no Churchill to show us the way home. We are sorely in need of inspiration.
Who will inspire us? Who will awaken us? Who will galvanize our hearts and minds and motivate us to change this world of violence, rage, chaos, and hatred? I challenge you to take responsibility for lifting the consciousness of this world and galvanizing individuals to action.
Speaking as a mother, on behalf of all mothers, I implore you: I ask you tonight to reconnect your hearts and your heads to inspire, to stir, to stimulate, to allow the divine spark through your writing, your reporting, your broadcasting, your publishing. Where there is violence, let there be a move to peace, where there is anger, let there be forgiveness, where there is chaos, harmony and where there is hatred, let there be love.
Together, let us transform the intense pain of loss into a new sense of commitment to the raising of the consciousness of every person on this planet, with the objective of creating a new permanent peace, both inside and out, to heal at last, the wounded hearts and minds of us all.
Remarks made to the 1994 Overseas Press Club Awards Dinner