Why did Christina-Taylor Green die? Why did Michaela Harte die? Christina-Taylor Green was nine years old and was one of six people killed on Saturday in the attack that left Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords critically injured. Michaela Harte was twenty-seven years old, the daughter of Tyrone manager Mickey Harte. She was strangled to death in Mauritius yesterday, where she was on her honeymoon. Because we humans are meaning-seeking mechanisms, when faced with the violent death of beauty and innocence, we feel compelled to search out a reason, an answer. If we can’t find one we reel back, baffled and uneasy.
Of the two, the death of Gabrielle Giffords is the easier to explain. It may be, as US right-wing commentators claim, that the attack which killed Christina-Taylor Green and wounded Gabrielle Giffords was non-political, the work of a crazed loner, motiveless. But few of us believe that. Giffords had been the subject of attack before. She was a liberal Democrat in a fiercely right-wing state. She was one of several politicians shown on material released by Sarah Palin’s office, the cross-hairs of an aimed rifle on their image with the instruction “Reload”. Palin insists her cross-hairs images were simply encouraging followers to resist politically and peacefully those identified as political opponents. But as the film-maker Michael Moore noted in a tweet: “If a Detroit Muslim put a map on the web w/crosshairs on 20 pols, then 1 of them got shot, where would he b sitting right now? Just asking.”
The death of Michaela Harte is harder to comprehend, in part because at the time of writing we know virtually nothing of the person charged with the crime. Was it a bungled robbery? Did she try to apprehend him? If we knew more about the life and society of the person who killed her, if we knew exactly what happened in the hotel room, if ...So many ifs, blocking our path to understanding such a paralysing loss.
As the family waits for more information, I find myself thinking of a novel by Thornton Wilder called The Bridge of San Luis Rey. It tells the story of a number of people who die in the collapse of a bridge in Peru, and details the varied paths that led them to that moment. It’s strange and frightening to wonder what things led Michaela Harte to travel thousands of miles from home, to a remote hotel room in Mauritius, there to meet with her death. We are meaning-seeking mechanisms, but in the face of such events we realise how few answers we can find to the mysteries of life and death.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a n-anamacha uaisle.