June 18, 2019

Letter to New Zealand Killer: 31 Million Minutes

Screenshot from Twitter.

I don’t know you, but I hope this letter finds its way to you.

I understand you’re 28 years old. Let’s assume you live another 60 years. There are 1,440 minutes in a day, 10,800 minutes in a week, 525,000 minutes in a year. Over 60 years, that adds up to more than 31 million minutes.

So, while you sit in prison over these next 60 years, you will have a full 31 million minutes to reflect on the 17 minutes of destruction you inflicted on innocent worshippers.

It’s important you use those minutes well. I have a few suggestions.

First, stop thinking about becoming famous. It’s obvious from news reports that you were hoping to generate some attention for yourself with your horrific act. Evidently, you couldn’t find anyone to publish your manifesto or anything else you wrote. So you found some guns and some easy victims and the whole world noticed you.

Those 15 minutes of fame will flame out before you know it. That smile you flashed in the courtroom will be long gone. Very soon, you will be languishing in anonymity and solitude, with 31 million minutes facing you.

Second, as much as you may want it, I won’t address you as part of a group. That would give you too much status, too much cover. You might see yourself as some glorious white supremacist warrior, but I see you simply as a terrorist, and a coward.

A coward can come in any color, ethnicity, nationality or religion. A coward is naked, with no mask or excuse.

A coward can come in any color, ethnicity, nationality or religion. A coward is naked, with no mask or excuse. I won’t refer to your victims as part of a group, either. That may give you a hint of warped justification. The 50 worshippers you are charged with killing, and those who were maimed, were, above all, innocent human beings who were victims of your cowardice.

You knew they were unarmed; you knew they couldn’t fight back. That’s why you’re a coward.

Third, now that we have fame and labels out of the way, I have a suggestion for how you can spend the bulk of your 31 million minutes: Think of the human lives you extinguished.

Think of Haji Daoud Nabi, a 71-year-old man with a noble face who loved to spend time with his grandson. That noble face is no longer.

Think of Khursheed Alam — you killed his brother and the brother’s son. Alam said that losing his brother and nephew was like “cutting your limb off.” Think of all the limbs and organs and hearts you cut off.

Think of Ali, who was praying with his brother and father when you started shooting. The father is now in an induced coma after being shot in the back to protect his sons.

Think of Sayyad Milne, 14 years old, who wanted to be a soccer player when he grew up, but who met your bullets before he had his chance.

Think of Khaled Mustafa, a refugee from the war in Syria, who thought he had found refuge in New Zealand, but who met your bullets in that very refuge.

Think of Hosne Ara, whom you killed while she was frantically looking for her husband, who uses a wheelchair. The husband survived. Now, he also will have plenty of time to reflect on the loss you inflicted on him.

Those 15 minutes of fame will flame out before you know it… Very soon, you will be languishing in anonymity and solitude, with 31 million minutes facing you.

Think of Abdullahi Dirie, age 4, who was worshipping with his father and four brothers when your bullets found him. “You cannot imagine how I feel,” one of his family members said.

Can you begin to imagine how family members feel?

I hope you will be given information on all those who were slain and maimed, as well as those who will never stop grieving.

I hope you will think seriously about each one.

I hope you will look at their photos, hear their stories, remember their names.

Maybe, after a few million minutes of such reflection, or even earlier, you may be moved to release a statement acknowledging that you are a coward who committed a dastardly act, that your heart and soul are irreparably broken, and that you understand if none of the surviving victims and family members can ever forgive you.

That will make you famous again.

Sincerely,

A writer in Los Angeles