“Fear - who cares?” reads a sign on Alan Beaven’s desk. Alan was my friend, and he died defending the same principles for which he lived: love, self-sacrifice, and the rule of law over the rule of violence.
Alan was a passenger on United Airlines Flight 93 that crashed in Pennsylvania on September 11th, just after 10 o’clock in the morning. Just before, two members of his family, separated by thousands of miles in California and Boston, had the exact same vision flash across their consciousness: Alan, with his arm around the throat of an unknown assailant, locked in a life-or-death struggle, and singing at the top of his lungs as the plane went down.
Now, of course, the world knows that this vision was reality. Alan and his fellow bravehearts overpowered their hijackers and forced flight 93 away from its intended target in Washington DC, sacrificing themselves in the process. His wife Kimi will be at the White House on Wednesday September 26th, to meet with President Bush.
Alan died the day after his eighth wedding anniversary, returning to California to prosecute his latest case against pollution in the South Fork of the American River. After a lifetime spent teaching and practicing public interest law in New Zealand, London, New York and San Francisco, Alan had risen to become the finest environmental lawyer on the West Coast. His specialty was the defense of the natural world against corporate interests, especially against the oil and logging companies. Although he did not win every case, the evidence he presented, and the arguments he made, have helped to strengthen corporate responsibility in the public eye.
Alan leaves behind a large and loving extended family, including John and Chris, his two sons by his first wife Liz, and the exquisite Dahlia Sonali, his 5-year old daughter by his second wife, Kimi Kaipaka Beaven.
“Where is Alan?” a friend asked Sonali last week, worried that she might not understand the reality of her father’s death.
“He’s in court”, she said, understanding perfectly well, “defending the angels.”
I love that, not just because it sums up Alan exactly, but also because it reminds us to hold onto the highest as we stumble forward in the weeks and months ahead. War, even death, would be no defeat for Bin Laden and his kind. This is what they want. Only the triumph of non-violence, secured through just laws justly applied, will bring the terrorists down.
Alan’s family and friends said goodbye to him yesterday, Sunday September 23rd. We swapped our favorite stories, sang to his memory, and saw photos of the heart of flowers, rice and sesame seeds that Sonali had made and left at the crash site, amid the hills and forests of Somerset County.
“Have I told you lately that I love you?
Have I told you there’s no one else above you?
Fill my heart with gladness, take away my sadness,
Ease my troubles, that’s what you do.”
Alan was a great soul, and he enriched the lives of everyone who knew him.
He was love in action.
Fearless, even in the darkest of circumstances.
And always on the side of the angels.
Alan Beaven: October 15th 1952 - September 11th, 2001.
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