On March 11, 2012 an American soldier allegedly massacred 16 Afghan citizens, nine of whom were children. Six other civilians were wounded in the attack.
On March 12, 2012 I was taking a spring vacation in Tyler, Texas. The azaleas were ready to burst into bloom and the town was preparing for the Azalea Festival scheduled for the last weekend of the month.
I was quite content and ready to enjoy my stay: wandering around the town, shopping at the thrift store, looking at antiques, walking through the parks and gardens there. Everything was beautiful in East Texas that week.
Life seemed especially good.
I was safe. My children were safe. My grandchildren were safe at home with their parents. I could imagine them wearing their warm little jammies, being tucked into bed by their mamas and daddies, being read a story before going to sleep, feeling safe in their own little beds.
My grand-babies are more precious than gold or all the possessions on Earth to me.
One morning I picked up a USA Today in the hotel lobby. I bought a snack from the vending machine and went to my room. Then I looked at the newspaper.
On the front page was a photograph of a grandmother from Kandahar, Afghanistan. She was sitting in the back of a truck, with her hand extended toward the body of her grandchild. The child was dressed in red pajamas, having been tucked safely into bed perhaps by the grandmother, before being pulled from bed and shot during the midnight attack of a soldier.
On the grandmother’s face was the shock and weariness of a grief that was only just beginning. I could imagine her pain.
There are other things I can imagine about this woman and her grandchild. I imagine that she told this little child bedtime stories just as I do for my grandchildren.
I imagine that her grandchild ran to her and hugged her around her legs whenever he saw her. Just as my grandchildren do. I imagine her grandchild’s little arms reaching up to her, asking for her embrace. Just as my grandchildren do.
Did she teach her grandchild little silly songs? Did they plant a garden together? Did she carry sweet treats in her pocket to give to her grand-baby? I imagine that she did, just as I do with my grandchildren.
I imagine that this grandmother wanted more for this child. I imagine that she wanted safety, freedom, security for her grandchild, just as I do for mine.
Then I think about the grandmother of the man who massacred these children. I imagine that she is grief-stricken and hurting, too. This is not what she wanted for her grandchild. I know it’s not. I imagine that she did the same things that the Afghan grandmother and I do for ours. I’m positive that she wanted safety, freedom, and security for her grandson.
It’s easy for us to imagine us all to be different. It’s easy for us to think that a color or a religion or a nationality makes one person less precious than another, to think that other people in war-torn lands are used to the grief and that their loss is less than our own.
But that’s not true. All grandmothers are alike…and all our grandchildren are precious. I imagine we all grieve the same.
I’d like to think that grandmothers could be the solution to the problems of hate, prejudice, violence, and war. I’d like to imagine that, banded together, we could all say: “Fuck war. Stop it. We demand that our children and grandchildren live in peace.” I’d like to imagine peace for all of them, worldwide.
One year later, this grandmother’s face haunts me still. I imagine it always will.
“The Kandahar massacre, also known as the Panjwai Massacre, occurred in the early hours of 11 March 2012, when sixteen civilians were killed and six others wounded in the Panjwayi District of Kandahar Province, Afghanistan. Nine of the victims were children, and eleven of the dead were from the same family. Some of the corpses were partially burned. United States Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales was taken into custody and charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder and six counts of assault and attempted murder. The charge was later reduced to 16 counts, due to the double counting of one victim.”
You may say I’m a dreamer. But I pray to God that I’m not the only one. Imagine peace for our children and grandchildren.