Hana raced outside with her older children. He had reached into the flames to pull her out. His legs and hands were seared. But Aysha was injured the worst. Neighbors rushed to put out the fire on her body — and all around them. Her skin was smoldering. A neighbor rushed Aysha and her dad to a hospital. Her wavy hair dances around her bright eyes. There she is in a white blouse. There she is in a purple plaid dress.
There she is with pigtails, sitting on a swing, wearing a white, blue and red polka-dotted tutu. Her mouth hung open, her eyes slightly cracked, her neck as reddish-pink as a bloody raw steak. Her face looked as if someone had slathered it with a mud mask. Pasty in some places, blackened in others. But her skin, Hana says, was still there, even if it had turned a different shade. Badly hurt and on the brink of death, that is how Hana remembered her daughter on the day she was burned. After Aysha was whisked away to Turkey for medical care on the day of the accident, an uncle who accompanied her sent a photo of her face wrapped in white bandages.
Instead, the uncle would call regularly with updates from Turkey. She was going to be OK. Doctors focused on her lungs especially, which were damaged from the smoke. Hana prayed and cried, waiting for Aysha to be well enough to come home. Finally, that day came. Hana waited, and when she saw the car coming down the road, she ran out of her house in time to see her little girl step out. She remembers that Aysha wore jeans and a red and white striped dress. Her hair had been shaved off. But it was her face that shocked Hana the most.
She did not know that the burned layer of skin had fallen away in sheaths, and that the new skin that replaced it was a combination of grafts, recent growth and irregular-shaped scars. Aysha did not look like the little girl her mother remembered, but Hana had no doubt she was her daughter. She grabbed Aysha and carried her inside of the house.
She sat down, weeping. Hana recalls how Aysha was welcomed back to parts of the community, but the children who used to play with her refused. In May , they boarded a plane and arrived in California. For the last 10 months, Aysha has lived in Southern California, traveling with a chaperone several days a week — an hour each way from an apartment in Irvine — to the hospital in Pasadena for checkups and surgeries, all to treat the burns and scars that run across her arms, chest, neck and face. She is one of six Syrian children who have come to the U. Given the immigration hurdles and expenses for travel, living and medical care, it would be almost impossible for most Syrian families to travel to the U.
She has been active in humanitarian projects since the war in Syria began. State Department has remained supportive of temporary visas to bring burned Syrian children and their families to the U. Twenty-five more burned Syrian children are currently on waiting lists to come to the U.
Currently they do not have enough funding to bring all of the children who need help. There have been half a million deaths and at least two million injuries since the start of the Syrian Civil War in , and the young Syrian patients who show up at Shriners come with gnarled hands, missing eyes and knotty scars, as well as obstructed breathing, hearing and vision. Some can barely swallow.
Their injuries are the direct result of air strikes and, in some cases, chemical weapons attacks. A longtime Syrian-American activist within the Arab-American community, Moujtahed worked on developing the partnership with Shriners as well as getting support from politicians. Those who survive their burns have a really tough, heavy pain, not only from their burns, but also psychologically. Norbury recalls the injuries of one Syrian boy he treated recently.
It looked like he was balancing a baseball on the back of his hand. But she still has more surgeries to go. When Aysha is not in the hospital, she plays alone, or studies with a year-old Syrian girl, Hamama, who is also receiving treatment at Shriners and lives with Aysha and her mom in the Irvine apartment.
Hamama lost her parents, along with key parts of her memory, when her village was attacked. She cannot recall her past, the accident, or even her family members who died. They occasionally go to the shopping mall, or out to eat. Aysha collects dolls, watches Disney cartoons, and loves Skittles.
But mostly she longs to attend school in a building outside with other children, even if they stare or laugh at her. It is too risky. Doctors have prohibited her from attending school outside because they worry the sun and environment could harm her already fragile skin and nervous system. Hana homeschools Aysha, who tries to stay in good spirits, even though she wishes she had other kids her age to play with.
When she does go outside for brief periods, she worries about what people think of her. Once, Aysha spotted a woman pushing a stroller. She noticed a toy fall from the stroller to the ground. Aysha thought of picking up the toy to give to the baby. On the television, a shark tries to catch a dolphin. Hana wears a gray head scarf and a red trench coat, which she has buttoned. She gives Aysha rosewater. She is often so focused on her daughter, she forgets about herself.
Hana left five other children behind in Syria. Though Hana and Aysha video chat with their family members back in Turkey and Syria regularly, they know that they will likely not see them again for at least another two years. That is how long the doctors expect it to take to complete the needed surgeries. W hen Aysha was a baby, her family resided in the close-knit village of Heesh, where she and her husband lived off the land, raising animals and growing their own food. They made cheese and traded it for other products.
Their agrarian life was peaceful, Hana says, until the military came in and ordered everyone in the village to leave. Heesh would become a bloody battleground as opposition fighters and Assad-regime forces clashed — artillery, rockets and mortars dropping over the hamlet, driving out residents and killing those left behind. Hana remembers gripping Aysha in her arms, carrying a bag of just a few clothing items, and making the two-week trek from Heesh to the border of Turkey on foot, with her husband and six kids.
If we make it out alive, we are alive. They spent four years in the camps. Aysha learned to crawl, and walk, between the tents. Since their entire village and extended family members had relocated there too, Aysha knew many people. She would spend her days going from canopy to canopy, hiding and hunting for food. You keep her! The family eventually learned that the fighting had subsided and they could return to Heesh, but when they made the long journey back to the village, they found a heap of rubble, broken glass, burned toys, cracked concrete, dust, dirt and crumbled storefronts.
The ceiling had collapsed. The living room was a hill of rocks. Like the rest of the village, they rebuilt their home, one concrete slab after another. Less than a year later, it was not fully intact, but they had repaired it enough to live within its walls again. The doctor begins to make marks on her ears with a marker. Doctors know the patients may never look the same as before, but they hope to help them live a more normal life by improving their burn injuries and deformities step by step, until they look and feel closer to the kids they are inside.
The ones who skip down halls, sing YouTube songs, and grab for toys like other kids their age — without fear of frightening others. At 10 a. Hama tells Aysha to open her mouth. The syringe is filled to the tip with the bright pink liquid. Aysha breathes deeply, gathering the courage to drink it down. She drinks it down with a grimace and wipes her lips. Minutes later, Aysha is groggy. Her mom leans in close. Aysha says nothing, her eyes droop. A few minutes later, the nurses wheel Aysha out of the room, down the hall, as Hana watches from behind.
Aysha is trying to call out. Her voice is so faint. Hana hears her. Hana rushes to her side once more. When priceless texts began disappearing from a seventh-century hilltop abbey, the police were mystified. They were even more befuddled when they finally caught the culprit. T ourists are a most common sight at the abbey of Mont Sainte-Odile in the summer. So, when a somewhat hefty, tall man walked down the marble stairs leading to the first floor of the guesthouse, hardly anyone noticed. His backpack contained a Bible, which is normal in a place where people come for religious pilgrimages, but this Bible was more than years old.
Along with it, the man carried a 15th-century incunabulum, works by Cicero and the eighth-century theologian Alcuin, and three more dusty, priceless books. He picked six books from one of the oak bookcases standing against the walls, and walked right out through the Saint-Pierre chapel, briefly glancing at the marble tomb of Saint Odile — the revered saint who founded this mountaintop abbey in the seventh century — on his way out. Now, the square-jawed, long-legged man sauntered through a swarm of tourists near the parapet enclosing the religious site.
It was a warm, sunny day in August , and he had just stolen from one of the holiest sites in Alsace, a historical region in northeastern France. On countless occasions, he had soaked up the views of the hillsides, blanketed with pines, and the sprawling Rhine Valley. He made himself a promise not to steal from the library anymore, he would later tell police investigators.
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A small, vaulted room, it had once been known as Calvary, a place where canons and nuns meditated on the Passion of Christ. In the midth century, a canon had turned it into a library, amassing more than 3, books donated by seminaries and monasteries from the region. In the s, an amateur historian started drawing an inventory and had found ancient editions of works by Aristotle, Homer, and the Roman playwright Terence.
Especially valuable were 10 incunabula — rare books printed before , during the earliest years of the printing press.
Sermons by Augustine, bound in sow skin, from Three Latin Bibles, printed in Basel and Strasbourg. Works by the Roman poet Virgil, printed in in Nuremberg. A Bible commentary by Peter Lombard, a 12th-century Italian scholar. Now one was missing. On the lower shelf where they were supposed to line up, there was an empty space. Buntz scurried out of the room. She bumped into Charles Diss, 61, the director of Mont Sainte-Odile, a short man with an affable face and protruding ears.
Diss was rattled. The library was accessible to some of the 60 employees, as well as to groups of 30 worshippers taking turns in adoration of the Eucharist, a tradition going back to the years following World War I. Buntz and Diss drove the weaving road downhill to file a complaint with the local police station. For a moment, they thought that things would be left at that. The door was often left unlocked, after all.
It appeared that only one book had been stolen, or simply borrowed by a fervent but dreamy pilgrim, and not returned. No additional security measures were taken. But when Buntz entered the library one day in November, just a few months later, the remaining incunabula were gone. The empty shelf stared grimly at her like an open wound. The gendarmes began an investigation and soon roamed the area. He had walked back to the car two hours later, carrying two bags full of nine heavy incunabula, according to previously undisclosed police records.
The lock on the library door was replaced with a sturdier one, and access to the room restricted. For months, there was no further pilfering. It was a relief. Life continued. In the fall of , Diss, the head of the site for 23 years, was succeeded by Alain Donius, a bespectacled, disheveled priest of No one told him about the thefts. The matter was considered closed. W hile the monks breathed easy, the thief enjoyed his new books. At night, in his tiny flat in Illkirch-Graffenstaden, in the suburbs of Strasbourg, year-old bachelor Stanislas Gosse tapped into his knowledge of Latin to read the stolen texts.
There was a 19th-century volume reproducing plates from the Hortus Deliciarum , a 12th-century encyclopedia that had been lost in a fire. Flipping through the pages, one saw the seeds of Christianity sprout and unfold. Miniatures showed Jonah crawling out of the jaws of the monster, a giant fish with its head a glowing red. The Three Kings followed the Star of Bethlehem, and a bearded King David sat on his throne musing, a harp tucked between his hands.
Did reading these books produce the same joy Gosse felt playing the organ at church? He had found them covered with dust and bird droppings. He had found himself a mission. He would save the texts from decay and oblivion. In ninth grade, his Latin teacher, a bibliophile, had taken his class to the library of the Grand Seminary of Strasbourg, where the spines of 5, ancient books glowed under the artificial light in countless shades of dull yellow, pearl-gray and purplish red.
Equally bewitching was Mont Sainte-Odile. Gosse was 3 years old when he had first laid eyes on the secluded mount and scampered around the Pagan Wall enclosing it, a kilometer long wall made of large stones covered with moss.
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His father, a military officer, took him there often, and as an adult Gosse visited the site every year. He was raised Catholic, and Alain Donius, the priest who became the head of Sainte-Odile in , had taught him catechism as a boy. When Gosse first peered inside the library in , he was enchanted. He would come back. In August , he walked up the stairs to the library and found the door open. He came back a few days later, riding his bicycle in the summer heat. He made his way to the library. His hand felt for a latch through the loose chicken wire covering the bookcase doors.
He picked six books, including a 15th-century Bible, and one incunabulum. Later, Gosse went to the national library in Strasbourg to read about what he had appropriated. He found the library door open. Gosse, who declined to be interviewed for this story, described the thefts to the investigators with a wealth of details, but the interrogation records fail to mention how he felt perpetrating them.
By his own account, he left around midnight, driving away in the cold night. For several months, it seems, Gosse was content with the books he had collected. In the summer of , however, he went back again. This time, he found the door closed and locked. Would it stop him? He returned the next day with a hand drill. How thick was the door, he wondered, and could he pick the lock? After drilling a 3-millimeter hole, he gave up. He was no professional thief, after all. He had to find another way in. This time, it hit her like a blow. Hundreds of books were missing. The door and the windows showed no signs of forced entry.
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Some mysterious force had found a way into the very heart of the holy site. Unless it was an inside job. One of the two priests, perhaps? One of the 10 nuns? One of the employees? Could it possibly have been the work of Donius, the new director? After all, not everyone had welcomed him with open arms.
Everyone was a suspect. Access to the library had already been restricted to a handful of people. Dietrich had changed the lock for a stronger one. Buntz had even relinquished her key, to prove her good faith. Would they ever be found? Had they already been thrown into the Rhine, or sold to art smugglers in the Netherlands or Belgium?
This was the lead pursued by the investigators, and art dealers across Europe had been asked to keep an eye out for specific books. They could only hope for a miracle. O n May 19, near 7 p. He brought ropes, three suitcases, gray plastic bags and a flashlight. Once inside the main courtyard, he headed straight to the second floor of the Sainte-Odile aisle of the guesthouse.
He tied the ropes to a wooden beam above a trapdoor in the floor and climbed down into a dark, windowless room of about 10 feet by 10 feet with a short 7-foot ceiling. Through an opening in the wall, he slipped into a second, narrow room. A dim light filtered through cracks in the lower part of a wall. The thief gently slid two wooden panels open, revealing rows of neatly lined up books on two shelves inside a cupboard.
He took the books off, then one shelf, before sneaking inside the library. At the library in Strasbourg, he had found what he had been looking for in an article from a local history journal that mentioned a secret passage, unknown to anyone currently working at the abbey, except Dietrich, the janitor. It had probably once been used as a hiding place for the monks or as an ossuary — a place to store bones.
Gosse selected a few books, wrapped them in plastic bags, then crawled back inside the cupboard.
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In the second room, he flipped a wooden crate, climbed on it and hauled the bags through the hatch onto the attic. He climbed up the rope, moved the books to a nearby table to clear the hatch, and climbed back down. He repeated the operation eight times throughout the evening. By the time he was done, more than a hundred books were stacked up in the attic. Around 2 a. He came back the following evening.
They had poked around the library for hours, eventually chancing upon the secret passage. They saw the suitcases Gosse had left and were waiting for him to come back. Around 9 p. The gendarmes wrestled him to the floor. He barely said a word. At his apartment, they found about 1, books wrapped in plastic bags. On most of the books, Gosse had glued a custom ex libris bookplate stamp bearing his name in Gothic letters, as well as a drawing of a heart.
He confessed to the thefts. He offered to donate them to the library he had so heartily pillaged. He apologized to the director, who gave him absolution. A slap on the wrist, his lawyer says. He was even able to keep teaching. Close to 20 years after the thefts, the investigators still speak about Gosse with awe. He was no ordinary thief, after all. He stole out of passion, and the books were safely returned to the library in 22 boxes it took two volunteers six months to sort them out.
Former colleagues at the engineering school where Gosse still teaches are more guarded. What kind of example had he set for the students? They described an aloof, reclusive man with no appetite for social activities whatsoever. He is now 48, single, and lives with his mother. They exchange a quick salute and walk on.
Fifty years ago, a left-wing radical planted bombs across New York, launching a desperate manhunt—and an explosive new strain of political extremism. T hroughout much of , Sam Melville, an unemployed year-old with an estranged wife and 5-year-old son, frequently sat at his desk in a squalid apartment on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, contemplating how he could destroy America.
Two years earlier, Melville had left behind a well-paying job as a draftsman, a spacious apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and his family. His father, a former member of the Communist Labor Party, whom Melville once greatly admired, had recently given up the socialist cause, remarried, and opened a hamburger stand in an upscale section of Long Island. Fearing that he might follow his father on a similar path led Melville down an existential rabbit hole.
In and around his neighborhood that year, he took part in marches and sit-ins, but by , as his anger toward the government grew, he secretly set off a series of bombs across Manhattan. To many in the counterculture underground, he was their equivalent of a masked avenger. There was no way some doped-up college kid was making them. Got married? Had kids? We picture a parallel universe, one with her in it. The Americans really buy into all that stuff. We never experienced that sort of psychic connection.
That said, on the night she died, 3, miles across the Atlantic, I sat bolt upright in my bed at 4am, as if waking from one of those nightmares that has a silent scream at the end. It was 11pm in New York, which I later learned was the time the taxi slammed into Molly as she walked home from a night out in Brooklyn. I had cut my summer short by returning to Dublin to repeat my oral Irish exam. That fact has haunted me for years. Even though I was at home while she was living it up in the Big Apple, the independence was freeing. In the months after, he turned up at my door late one night looking for a Molly-shaped shoulder to cry on.
I opened a bottle of wine and we sat up talking for hours. We kept most of our clothes on even when he was inside me, and we were ever so quiet although there was no-one to hear us, as if being quiet somehow made it less of a crime. As he sobbed into the crook of my neck, I wondered if my skin tasted like hers. I saw him a few times after, but we never found a way to talk about what happened. After that, I tried changing my look, thinking it might be easier for everyone if I looked less like Molly.
I cut my hair short and bleached it blonde, invested in a new wardrobe, ditching the jeans and hoodies we used to wear. Now here I am in Melbourne, with my new hair and my new clothes. This part of Brunswick Street reminds me of Brooklyn, with its vintage shops and cafes selling types of bitter-tasting coffee.
But I barely have time to experience the pang Brooklyn brings before I hear a voice that unmistakably belongs to Deirdre McCarthy from school. How are you doing? I came here to break free of the past, not to meet it for a pint in an Irish pub in St Kilda. In fact, I seem to think about Molly more than ever these days. Early on, one of them was bitching about her sister taking her favourite leather jacket without asking, and she asked me if I had any siblings and I said I was an only child.
I enter and ask if they can fit me in. Cut and colour? Just a colour, but not the blonde I have now, it never suited me anyway. I want to go back to being a brunette, I say. He hopes my tooth is alright, wants to see me again. She never wants to hear the phone ring in the middle of the night again. We meet a few days later near Flinders Street Station in the city centre and walk to a bar in one of the graffiti-lined laneways.
We stay for another drink, and another. What about you, have you got brothers or sisters? To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber. He is fundamentally unsound. Wodehouse, Carry on, Jeeves. Write with blood, and thou wilt find that blood is spirit. It is no easy task to understand unfamiliar blood; I hate the reading idlers. He who knoweth the reader, doeth nothing more for the reader.
Another century of readers--and spirit itself will stink. Every one being allowed to learn to read, ruineth in the long run not only writing but also thinking. Once spirit was God, then it became man, and now it even becometh populace. He that writeth in blood and proverbs doth not want to be read, but learnt by heart. In the mountains the shortest way is from peak to peak, but for that route thou must have long legs. Proverbs should be peaks, and those spoken to should be big and tall.
The atmosphere rare and pure, danger near and the spirit full of a joyful wickedness: thus are things well matched. I want to have goblins about me, for I am courageous. The courage which scareth away ghosts, createth for itself goblins--it wanteth to laugh.
Oh, you noble Stoics, what fraud of words! To live—is not that just endeavouring to be otherwise than this Nature? Is not living valuing, preferring, being unjust, being limited, endeavouring to be different? Why should you make a principle out of what you yourselves are, and must be? In reality, however, it is quite otherwise with you: while you pretend to read with rapture the canon of your law in Nature, you want something quite the contrary, you extraordinary stage-players and self-deluders!
In your pride you wish to dictate your morals and ideals to Nature, to Nature herself, and to incorporate them therein; you insist that it shall be Nature "according to the Stoa," and would like everything to be made after your own image, as a vast, eternal glorification and generalism of Stoicism! With all your love for truth, you have forced yourselves so long, so persistently, and with such hypnotic rigidity to see Nature FALSELY, that is to say, Stoically, that you are no longer able to see it otherwise—and to crown all, some unfathomable superciliousness gives you the Bedlamite hope that BECAUSE you are able to tyrannize over yourselves—Stoicism is self-tyranny—Nature will also allow herself to be tyrannized over: is not the Stoic a PART of Nature?
But this is an old and everlasting story: what happened in old times with the Stoics still happens today, as soon as ever a philosophy begins to believe in itself. It always creates the world in its own image; it cannot do otherwise; philosophy is this tyrannical impulse itself, the most spiritual Will to Power, the will to "creation of the world," the will to the causa prima. For centuries great, brave, lonely men have been telling you what to do.
Time and again you have corrupted, diminished and demolished their teachings; time and again you have been captivated by their weakest points, taken not the great truth, but some trifling error as your guiding principal. This, little man, is what you have done with Christianity, with the doctrine of sovereign people, with socialism, with everything you touch.
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