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Volume 2, Issue 2
Summer 2006:

A Wedding and Forty Funerals

Brian T. Maurer

Cell 2 Soul. 2006 Summer; 2(2):a6

The Third of May, 1808
Painting by Francisco Goya
[Larger Image]

The radio journalist's voice quietly described the aftermath of the recent hotel bombings in Amman, Jordan. One suicide bomber had chosen a wedding party at the Radisson SAS. Aimlessly he wandered into the midst of the crowded reception, then detonated the explosives strapped to his body under his clothing. Somewhere between 30 and 40 family members and relatives died, the father of the bride and the father of the groom among them.

Among the survivors brought to the local hospital was a three month old baby girl. She had escaped the blast relatively unscathed; only her arm had been broken.

Her father was a doctor on duty in the same hospital that evening. Because his presence was required on the wards, he had been unable to attend the wedding celebration with his young wife and three month old daughter.

Someone told him that a bomber had struck a nearby hotel, targeting a wedding party. The doctor picked up the telephone and called his wife's cellphone, listening to the endless empty rings. "I did not know then that my wife was dead," he said. "Still I am trying to call her, but there is no answer."

He discovered her body in the hospital morgue the following day.

During this radio interview the doctor father stood over the hospital crib where his infant daughter lay, pressing his forehead to her tiny cheek. At the foot of the crib, on top of a pile of clean white folded diapers, someone had placed a single red rose.

"She was only 22 years old, my wife," he said, choking back his tears. "These people are animals."

The reporter spoke with the bridegroom. Just married, his first task as a new husband was to oversee the burial of his father and his father-in-law, as well as to attend to an extended grieving family — perhaps 40 funerals, give or take.

In his Spanish Civil War treatise Barcelona and Madrid (1936), St. Exupéry describes a wedding scene after a random street bombing on the Gran Via: "[W]hen the light smoke had risen and cleared away, the betrothed, escaped by miracle without a scratch, found at his feet his novia, whose golden arm a moment before had been in his, changed into a blood-filled sponge, changed into a limp packet of flesh and rags. . . . This marvel spattered on the pavement bore no resemblance to what had been his beloved."

On page after page, he describes the senseless carnage of the conflict.

"Here, in Spain, a man is simply stood up against a wall and he gives up his entrails to the stones of the courtyard. You have been captured. You are shot. Reason: your ideas were not our ideas."

"Human events display two faces," he writes, "one of drama and the other of indifference."

I can only echo his fervent desire: "As for me, I wish I understood mankind."

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