Husband Finding Peace After A Terrorist Attack
Each week,Weekend Edition Sunday host Rachel Martin brings listeners an unexpected side of the news by talking with someone personally affected by the stories making headlines.
Several years ago, David Harris-Gershon and his wife Jamie were studying in Israel, where they'd constructed their daily life in ways they hoped would protect them from a terrorist attack. They weren't so fortunate.
"I received a call from somebody who I did not know, who basically said there'd been an explosion at the university," Harris-Gershon tells NPR's Rachel Martin. "I turned on the news and I immediately knew what had happened."
The phone rang again, and he was notified Jamie was in the emergency room. He rushed to the hospital.
"I was brought before a woman who I didn't recognize, and I didn't know why I'd been brought before her until she said my name," he says. Jamie was badly burned, but lived. The two friends she'd been sitting with at the cafe did not.
We kind of constructed these false borders within which we decided to live, you know? We would go to cafes, but only if they had armed guards, and we would go to movies, but only if they were matinees where there weren't a lot of people. And we kind of assumed, as I think a lot of people did, that Hebrew University, this integrated place of study with both Jewish Israelis and Palestinians was off limits. And obviously that wasn't the case.
"After her recovery, we returned to the States," Harris-Gershon says, and his wife "achieved an amazing level of recovery through therapy." But eventually, he began to suffer symptoms of PTSD as well, which made it clear that he was more than a caretaker for his wife — he was a victim, too.
Harris-Gershon tried therapy, but it didn't help, so he decided to face the facts of the attack head-on. He learned that the man behind the attack, Mohammad Odeh, had been captured and jailed.
"He reportedly told Israeli authorities that he was sorry, that he was remorseful that so many people had died in the attack," Harris-Gershon says.
That remark didn't make sense to Harris-Gershon, so he decided to travel to confront Odeh. Jamie wanted nothing to do with it, though she was supportive. After Israeli authorities denied his request to talk with Odeh, Harris-Gershon tracked down Odeh's family, and they agreed to meet.
"This had traumatized them as well," Harris-Gershon says. "They were [a] moderate, middle-class family that didn't know what Mohammad was doing. They had no idea that he was involved with Hamas. They were broken, and I think we both needed to try and treat this in some way."
It was a cathartic conversation for both sides. The family welcomed Harris-Gershon "with open arms." They got to know each other, and "it was a conversation about how much both of us desired peace."
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