Happy 70th birthday, Camilla

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Camilla's gravestone at Resurrection Cemetery, St. Peter, Minnesota.

Camilla’s gravestone at Resurrection Cemetery, St. Peter, Minnesota.

Today is Camilla Hall’s 70th birthday. I don’t like the idea of birthdays going by unnoticed.

Flowers and a card for Camilla today. I wrote in the card, which also includes thoughts from women in my writing group, who have come to know Camilla.

Flowers and a card for Camilla today. I wrote in the card, which also includes thoughts from women in my writing group, who have come to know Camilla.

Camilla Hall. This was the first picture I ever saw of her. I knew she had been involved in the Symbionese Liberation Army, but I could not reconcile her radicalism with this friendly face.

Camilla Hall. This was the first picture I ever saw of her. I knew she had been involved in the Symbionese Liberation Army, but I could not reconcile her radicalism with this friendly face.

From my work in progress: “Lorena was about to burst with child. She had a 3-year-old and 4-year-old at home, yet George packed up and headed to Seattle. So when Camilla was born on March 24, 1945, the day before Palm Sunday, George was in Seattle preparing Holy Week services. He was a pastor in demand and often traveled to congregations around the country, baby or no baby. Later that year, with baby Camilla in tow, the Halls moved to the East Coast for a few months so George could continue theological study. Thus Camilla’s travels started early, an itinerant life molded for her from her very beginning. George’s search for knowledge and his desire to help others led him from coast to coast and later in life, from continent to continent. Camilla followed in her father’s footsteps. I wonder if either of them ever found what they were looking for.”

Camilla's gravestone in the foreground. George's gravestone is next to hers, and Lorena's is at the top of the picture.

Camilla’s gravestone in the foreground. George’s gravestone is next to hers, and Lorena’s is at the top of the picture. We got about six inches of snow Sunday into Monday, so I had to sweep off the stones. It took me a while to find the gravestones because it’s been years since I’ve visited.

Some of you consider Camilla to be a terrorist. But to me, she was someone born 70 years ago into a family who had a whole lot of love for her. Her love for them was evident almost up to the day she died. How do love and terrorism live side-by-side? How do any of our conflicting feelings live side-by-side?

The view from Camilla's grave looking east. The three stones in the foreground, next to the tree, mark where Camilla's two brothers and her sister are buried. They preceded her in death; that's why those three are in a row, and Camilla and her parents are in the next row.

The view from Camilla’s grave looking east. The three stones in the foreground, next to the tree, mark where Camilla’s two brothers and her sister are buried. They preceded her in death; that’s why those three are in a row, and Camilla and her parents are in the next row.

My purpose is writing about her is not to excuse her actions. I’m writing in an attempt to understand them. This is why we study history, right? To understand? If we can understand people who went before us, can we apply that understanding to humanity today?

We live in an age where we are seeing people make similar decisions to fight for a cause they think is just and right. Here in Minnesota, we’ve heard of seemingly happy, well-adjusted young people leaving the country to join terrorist groups overseas. The March 21 edition of The New York Times profiled one such young man. While I was in England, three teenage girls from the U.K. were suspected of going Syria to aid ISIS.

How many stories that could help us today are forgotten? Or stories people know about, but they simply don’t care? Or stories in which people are content to know just the surface information, even though it may be stereotypical or wrong. If I can fill out one person’s story, a story that deserves to be told, I am going to try to do it.

Happy birthday, Camilla.

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