Survived the fallout of her son’s mass murders at École Polytechnique in 1989 and his subsequent suicide. A retired nurse, she wrote about her experience in Aftermath. Now 64, she lives outside Montreal.
It took me 17 years before I could face the public, before I could understand what happened, before I was delivered of my guilt and shame.
I was an ambitious person, and I was not Christian-minded then. That came after, after the suffering – I realized how selfish I was. I couldn’t see my son’s suffering. When I divorced my husband he never payed his alimony, he never saw his children. Just now I understand all the rejection, the abandonment that my kids felt.
But my son was an introvert. His pain was inside. I didn’t know he had a gun. I never had a gun in the house.
This is the problem. When I speak with young people who are in prison, I tell them, “You have to speak up if you have problems inside. Just find someone who can help you.” But they don’t trust people, because so often they have been rejected.
And they’re in their own minds. When you are doing such a thing it’s because you don’t think about others, you’re sick, sick in spirit. The cause of this we don’t know. Maybe we will learn something with this Mr. Holmes, because he’s still alive – it’s very rare that he’s still alive after these murders.
Everyone will criticize and blame the parents. People think it cannot happen to them. I’m sorry, but you never know... The heart of man is not good in itself. The Bible tells us that we are very selfish. We’re all capable, if we keep bitterness, all this hate, in ourselves, can bring you to do bad things like that.
We need compassion. That’s what I’ve learned through my process.
To Mr. Holmes’s mother I say be courageous. I think God changes the heart, not us. But our part is to love people. I live to help others that are suffering.
Survived abduction in Argentina following a military coup. The political activist, now 57, is a teacher in Los Angeles.
There had been a military coup in March, 1976. It was a climate of terror and uncertainty. And 30,000 of us, including children, were kidnapped, taken to a secret detention camp, tortured and eventually disappeared.
I was at home with my kid, she was one year and a half. They knocked at the door. I asked who was there, and they said, “The army.” So I turned to run. My daughter followed me – I didn’t know whether to take her with me. I just kissed her goodbye. I left her.
I was hit and beaten up and sexually molested. I was not tortured with electricity. It was a very strange thing that they didn’t do that. But for me, the worst torture was not knowing what they had done to my daughter.
This whole thing, “Anybody can become a torturer, anyone can become a criminal” – I don’t think it’s exactly like that. I don’t think we all can be the torturer. I don’t think I’m special, but I had other types of convictions and beliefs. I didn’t believe in taking power by force and I didn’t believe in torture, ever.
And I don’t want to get into the minds of the evil people, because they destroy my own. In Colorado, relatives are saying “Let’s name the victims and not the perpetrator.” I understand that.
And this whole thing about forgiveness. Some people get relief, they forgive to get better. But torture is different. I mean, I can forgive my friend who forgets my birthday, but justice is what we need.
People also talk about survivor’s guilt. But for me, it’s not guilt. I know who the guilty ones were. It’s a sorrow that cannot be explained. It’s a loneliness. People are curious, but I don’t think there is a recipe for survival.
Survived imprisonment and torture during the Iranian Revolution. The 47-year-old now lives in Aurora, Ont.
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