Friday, August 26, 2005

Not completely forgotten

The day before yesterday -- Wednesday, 24 August, 2005 -- marked the anniversary of what was probably my political awakening, although I doubt I was much aware of the effect for quite some time. The 24th of August was, you see, the day Bob Fassnacht was murdered. I took it a bit personally.

Only a few years prior to this event, my father was, more or less, where Bob had been. Bob and his wife were both students (postdoc), studying physics at the University of Wisconsin, with a passel of small kids a few years younger than I was. My Dad had been finishing up his studies -- in physics, as well -- and was soon to go from student/labtech to instructor. Our families had crossed paths a few times more than in the philosophical sense, before we moved away from Madison, WI, to Monmouth, IL.

Bob and his wife, by my parents' accounts, were both brilliant. Dad had even worked, briefly, with Stevie. We'd been to a couple of picnics, as a mob, together. Being painfully shy, I was, of course, oblivious to everything (being a schoolgirl with knobby knees and, I thought, horribly crooked teeth). I simply recall vague impressions of all the nice people daddy worked around, and the cute kids they had.

I do, however, have somewhat stronger impressions of Sterling Hall. It was right across the street from University Hospital, where they ran test after test upon my chest, finally deciding that my heart murmur wasn't going to require surgery. Mostly, my impressions of the hospital were unpleasant, and my memories of Sterling Hall were as I left the Hospital, the taste of that nasty pseudo-minty chalky solution fading from my mouth. Sterling Hall was the place I always saw as we escaped the dread testing grounds. Its solid image stayed with me as Mom bought me the requisite strawberry ripple or peach ice cream cone to make the day less of an ordeal.

When we moved away, I didn't miss much except the ice cream.

But the day came, just a couple of years later, when Walter Cronkite described the bombing of "the Military Science building" at the University of Wisconsin, and mentioned "one dead". Others began to discuss "the graduate student" who had died. Eventually, we learned that the murdered man was one that we had known and liked.

Bob wasn't in that building trying to concoct some evil device to destroy the world. He was a nice, bright nerd with a family. He was like just about every other nice bright nerd, in that he cared about what he was doing, he cared about the people around him. When anybody dismisses his killing as "He was in the wrong place at the wrong time," I want to scream there is no right time or place for car bombs!

Deep inside, I instinctively felt that Bob was, in spirit and essence, my father, that day. For many years afterward, I'd wake in the middle of the night, terrified that bombers had taken my daddy. But I was the lucky one. I could rush over and give my father a big hug and a sloppy kiss, and he would return it. Bob's kids lost that precious gift.

Still, the community of Badgers has not seen fit to offer Bob's memory the respect of a simple marker, to mention who he was and how he was taken. The only sign of the event is the different color to the bricks on the face of Sterling Hall, replacing those which had been damaged by the bomb.

And still, one of the four creatures responsible for this loss has not been brought to justice. The leader of that pack of beasts served an obscenely brief stint for having committed murder and treason. I can only hope there is a divine power to rectify the problems.

Terrorism, domestic or imported, cares not one whit about the victims it leaves in its wake. It is all about forcing others to pay attention, pay homage to the person with the explosive devices. But to me, the attention, the homage should be paid to the individuals who stand in the way of terrorists and terrorism. We should never allow ourselves to forget Bob Fassnacht, any more than we can allow ourselves to forget the people who were lost in Oklahoma City or on 9/11. It is he, it is they who must be the reminders of the cost of failed vigilance.

(HT to jax, commenting on lgf's thread re: Jane Fonda & George Galloway amid Badgers. It was his comment that reminded me of the anniversary.) Update: Having just followed his link, I've decided jax's (Crow's) thoughts at Crow Violation are more than worth reading. Pls visit.

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