This just in from our Saturday paper: US man wanted for ecoterror sentenced in China.
For those of you who don’t know my history, I was an associate professor at the Center for Urban Horticulture at UW when it was firebombed in May 2001 by ecoterrorists. It’s a long and sad story, but if there’s an upside, it’s that this event was the ultimate reason I’m doing what I’m doing now. Otherwise I would probably still be doing lab-based research – which is good and necessary, but not nearly as personally satisfying as working directly with people who want to understand and apply plant sciences as they relate to garden and landscape sustainability.
I was the first person from our center on the scene that morning – I heard about the fire on the local NPR affiliate and immediately thought that somehow it was my fault – that I’d left something on in the lab. I raced to the scene and watched my building burn. My colleagues trickled in as the morning went by, and we cried and hugged as we watched our professional lives literally go up in smoke. It wasn’t until the ATF showed up that we began to understand that this was no accident, but a deliberate act of violence against us.
I don’t think about the fire much any more, except when these news items appear. What was particularly galling was a statement by the arsonist’s father that his son isn’t a terrorist. While I sympathize with the agony a parent must go through in such a situation, I know for a fact that my colleagues and I felt exposed and threatened by having our offices torched. Many of us ended up going through therapy to deal with the fear and anger we experienced in the days afterwards.
That’s what terrorism does to you.