MEANWHILE
 
Friday, October 25, 2002
A Bali victim's legacy of fearless generosity
 
HONG KONG There will be a requiem Mass for him in County Tipperary on Saturday, and a wake at a yacht club on the Shannon. There have been Buddhist prayers for him in Chiang Mai. There will be a memorial service in Hong Kong. His remains will eventually be buried in Ireland - if they are ever identified. This is the end of the body but not the spirit of one Edward Waller, 26.
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Ed, a British/Thai national and a member of a visiting Hong Kong rugby team, was just one of at least 180 victims of the Bali bombing. He was not famous. Others, I am sure, are equally worthy of remembrance. But I write about him because I knew him well, in a way I did not personally know victims of Sept. 11, of Jerusalem or Gaza, Colombo or Bogota. I write too because he was one of the nicest, most generous, happiest people I ever met. Whether being personally touched can help one think more clearly about such things I do not know. But I do know this: Ed embodied the antithesis of everything the bombing represents.
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I also know what he would say if he were still with us: Keep doing what you want to do. Go to Bali, go to bars, go on rugby tours. This was a person who hung above his office desk this quote from the solo yachtsman Pete Goss: "Life hangs on a very thin thread and the cancer of time is complacency. If you are going to do something, do it now. Tomorrow is too late." Without a doubt, Ed would pay no heed to the cries of the United States and other governmentsthat Indonesia and a growing list of other countries should be avoided.
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Ed was always extraordinarily busy. Working hard, playing football, rugby, sailing, partying and looking after just about anyone who came to town and needed to meet a friendly face.
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Ed earned a degree from Trinity College, Dublin, and was talented in various sports. But while his skills as a competitive sailor were much in demand by boat owners in Hong Kong - myself included - he was neither an academic nor sporting star. Ed's genius lay in human relationships.
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He always smiled, was always helpful, never got angry, was always fun to be with. In spite of his youth, his rugby team made him their captain - not because he was forceful and demanding but because of the way he led with enthusiasm and a sense of fairness.
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Off the pitch he made people twice his age feel part of his gang. Girls wanted to be under his wing. He was instinctively sensitive to others' needs, whether for another beer or a word of encouragement. People who met him only briefly remembered him for his winning mix of grace and enthusiasm. At the last count, more than 500 people from all continents had paid tribute on the Internet to his memory.
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Ed was a special kind of person in another way which makes the manner of his death doubly poignant. He was an internationalist by birth and education as well as instinct. Part British, part Irish, half Thai, living in Hong Kong, working and traveling in Asia, he was naturally at ease with himself as well as with most of the world. He was the kind of person the bombers could not abide. Or, to put it another way, he had the kind of qualities that have made Tiger Woods a role model for people who care nothing about golf.
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Ed was not nave. He not only crossed racial barriers, but his own family crossed the Irish religious divide. He was brought up a Catholic in the tradition of his Polish grandmother. But the Wallers were Protestant Anglo-Irish gentry, still viewed by some Celtic Catholics as interlopers though they had been in Tipperary for centuries.
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He would have figured that the mentality of the Bali bombers was not much different from those of Omagh or Canary Wharf. But does that stop one sailing, playing rugby or drinking with Irish nationalists? Does that mean one should imprison oneself either in fear or a contrary self-righteousness? Does one condemn a whole nation or a whole religion for the misdeeds of a few? Does one refuse to go to Boston because that was where the IRA raised funds? Or to New York, in case there is another Qaeda attack?
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Ed was fearless, optimistic, inclusive and generous. Let his spirit guide the response to Bali.
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International Herald Tribune

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