Ash and Shadow by Alicia Poterek

It is years now since you are gone.
The image of your faces should be faded now, vanished;
but I turn my head and hear your laughter and your voices...
I haven't ever met you;
yet I feel like you are my brothers,
who have left for only a short time and will return soon,
with hugs and stories for their sister...
Touching your names, black ink on white paper,
should not make me cry.
It does.

Maybe because I think you would stand beside me,
to fight for all the things I find important:
justice, fairness, equality, non-violence,
for all those virtues you must have held dear.
I feel like I don't stand alone:
your hands are on my shoulders,
your fingers touching mine...

I am going to Europe this December.
I will follow in your lost footsteps,
look for you in the eyes of Scottish children;
listen for your voices in the space of air over the ocean.
When I leave, the roar of the engines
will be my herartbeat - and yours,
as I pray that I, too
not merge with ash and shadow, leaving behind only grief...

The steel contraption, like Leonardo's iron-winged bird, fell out of the sky almost 10 years ago. Ten years, since it turned into a ball of fire, a tiny inferno in the air above Scotland. I know the children stared, and wondered at the hand, which opened the portal to death so suddenly over their heads. I wonder at it myself, now. What kind of mind would find justice in the explosion, which pushed the breath from Eric's lungs? That turned Jason's world to ash? I thought I understood people. I was mistaken, because I do not understand this: who would commit such an act, who would willfully destroy so many innocent lives in the name of an idea? Any idea?!

Eric and Jason, the brothers I never had, the friends I never met, are gone; their last breaths choked with ash and fire. I touch the engraved letters of their names, and cry. It was seven days before my 11th birthday when they died. I lived in communist Poland, behind the Iron curtain. The media censorship did not allow much news. But if I had heard then, I think I would remember the precise instant in time: how my heart paused, how my breath caught, how I could not believe...

I'm as old now as Jason and Eric were then. I can no longer afford disbelief in the cruelty of the world. But what stays is my faith that things like this should not happen. No- rather, that they will not happen again, as long as I live and act. I have set myself a new goal in life, and that goal is to work in the field of international conflict resolution. For Jason and Eric, and all other victims of senseless, politically motivated violence.