… A question that laid on my tongue during the whole conversation and yet I could not ask it. I was thinking for a long time whether I wanted to publish this story on my blog and whether I could. So far, I have not talked to anyone about my meeting that day in New York. Not even my mum. Why not I don’t even really know.
It was a Saturday afternoon at the Metropolitan Museum to be exactly the 29th of July , 2017 when I met Dave. He was sitting in the middle of this huge building. In front of one of these new-fashioned pictures, that do not really interest me. Strokes and dots on a white background. But Dave did not just sit there like someone who was waiting for his wife or taking a break. No, he was focussed, it seemed as if he took the picture into himself practically and looked at every stroke and every point from below to above.
At first, I was not really caring about it. But still I was curious and so I went back at the end of my visit. Only to be right: he was still sitting there in front of this picture and it seemed as if nothing could stop him from looking at it.
I tried my luck and spoke to him. What followed should become one of the most depressing and at the same time most impressive stories I heard in my life.
“I come here every Saturday and sit down in front of this picture. I do not know what it is that fascinated me so much but I can not stop staring at it. It’s so calming to me and when I look at it, I forget the world around me for a couple of hours. “
Dave is 42 years old and lives on the Upper West Side of New York. He is a former soldier of the U.S. Army.
“You know, September 11th 2001 changed my life. I was not living in New York at that time, I came from a rural area in South Carolina and led a normal life to this day.
This day has not only changed the lives of people on the aircraft or the World Trade Center. But also the lives of thousands of soldiers and civilians.
A few months after the attack, it was so also time for me. My troops and I were sent to Afghanistan. I was unsure what to expect. I thought it would take a few months and my group and I would return to the US safely.
But this has not been confirmed. If you have an idea of hell, this was even worse. All in all, I was stationed in Afghanistan for three years, until I was sent back to the United States for psychological instability.
I’ve seen friends and brothers have died next to me. How they ran into empty barracks, blown up a few seconds later. I’ve seen children being kidnapped, shot, or burned. I’ve seen more suffering and misery than I imagined in my darkest dreams.“
– Dave has told me some stories that I do not want to tell at this point. On the one hand because I respect his story and on the other because I think it is inappropriate. –
Nevertheless, there was a question that did not go out of my mind during our whole conversation. And Dave knew that.
„Don’t you want to know anything else? A question that has often been asked to me in my life, although many people are afraid to ask it.
Yes I have killed. I shot people who attacked my troops and me. Yes, I have probably already shot at civilians, because sometimes it is a narrow degree to recognize who belongs to which side.
The only thing I’ve ever done is hurting a child. This is a limit I could never cross.“
There she was the answer. And although I actually knew it already, it still shocked me.
“It is important that you always remember who you are and where you come from. Because there will be times when hate controls you mind. You must not allow this, because in such times there is nothing more important than cohesion and love. But that is hard and sometimes you just want to take revenge, for what they did to you or your brothers. “
Meanwhile, Dave has been living here in New York for several years. Even today attends a psychologist every week.
“It took me a long time to lead a normal life again. Meanwhile, I have a job, for 3 years a firm relationship and I go out with friends again. All this I have not been able to do for years. When I came back I did not know who I was and what I would do with my life from now on.
And it is this picture, which I look at every saturday, that has helped me so much to find my place in life. Whenever I feel bad, I come here and look at it. As others would say: He stares at the wall again. But no matter what people think, and no matter what you think now Theresa. To sit here gives me strength and hope. Hope that I will forget all this bad experiences one day and just be a normal man.
I am grateful that I have survived these years, and I pray for every human in Syria, in Iraq, or wherever it is in this world, that they are as lucky as I was.”
As with so many conversations, which I have managed over time, I have to say thank you again. Thanks to Dave for speaking so frankly and honestly with a stranger like me about his story. I know that is not always self-evident and that I am dependent on people like Dave and their courage. And I am totally thankful for that.