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AMERICAN MORNING WITH PAULA ZAHN

Author Discusses Book About Father's Would-be Terrorist Killer

Aired April 5, 2002 - 09:20   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: At first, the title of Laura Blumenfeld's new book might seem a contradiction: "Revenge: A Story of Hope." It follows her desperate pursuit of the man who tried to kill her father but it's much more about that. In 1986, her father was shot by a Palestinian terrorist in Jerusalem. Then a student at Harvard, Laura's anger took the form of a poem that said, "This hand will find you. I am his daughter."

Well, 12 years later, finding the shooter became her obsession. She would eventually befriend the family of Omar Khatib (ph), become his prison pen pal and, finally, meet him face to face.

It is a remarkable personal journey, and Laura Blumenfeld joins us now to tell us the story in her own words.

Good morning.

LAURA BLUMENFELD, "REVENGE: A STORY OF HOPE": Good morning.

ZAHN: What a brave woman you are. We should also mention you happen to be reporter for "The Washington Post."

BLUMENFELD: Thank you.

ZAHN: First of all, why were you so driven to meet this man who tried to kill your own father?

BLUMENFELD: Well, you know, the man didn't only take a shot at my father; he took a shot at my innocence and my sense of security in the world. I was a college student and this was my first brush with evil. A stranger stepped out of an alley, raised a gun to my fathers' head, fired it and tried to kill him. And I felt like I had to chase that bullet down, find the man who did it. This person who thought that you could kill an civilian to make political point and challenge him in some way.

ZAHN: How did you find him?

BLUMENFELD: Well, I went through police records.

ZAHN: This is the man, right? We're looking -- I can't tell what this picture is.

BLUMENFELD: Yes, that's actually the day of his arrest. And I did -- I find police records, which listed 25 men that were part of a gang that were shooting and killing foreign tourist, British, German, American. And I went down the list name by name knocking on the doors of the homes where they lived.

ZAHN: Literally going door to door?

BLUMENFELD: Door to door. No phone calls. And one day a door opened and a lovely woman invited me inside and offered me some cold orange soda. I asked for Omar Khatib (ph) and she pointed to his picture up on the wall and said there he is. He tried to kill a man, shot him one time in the head. And I said who. And one of Omar's nephews said some Jew and they all started to laugh. And as they described the details of the shooting I began to realize they were talking about my father. But they weren't talking a human being they were saying, well, you know he did it so people would look at us. It was for public relations. And I just kept taking notes. I had introduced myself simply as Laura.

ZAHN: So at this point, you didn't even admit to them that you were on to the fact that this Omar Khatib was the guy who shot your father.

BLUMENFELD: No. They actually -- I kept this up for year where they knew me as Laura the journalist. I didn't want them to know who I was, Laura the victim's daughter, Laura the Jew. I really wanted for them to get me know for who I was and just see me as human being and I only revealed my identity much later.

ZAHN: And then what happened when that occurred?

BLUMENFELD: Well, the kind of revenge that I got in the end was a sweet form of revenge because Omar, the gunman, described my father the first time. He said I shot at a chosen military target. That made me angry.

ZAHN: Now this is meeting then that you had with him in prison where this took place?

BLUMENFELD: I finally met him actually in a courtroom. He was having a hearing. He was trying to be released for medical grounds. But the first time he described my father, he just described him as military target. It reminded me of Timothy McVeigh who described the children who he killed as collateral damage.

And when I finally was able to reveal to him I am Laura Blumenfeld, I am this man's daughter, he felt mortified and he felt ashamed and awful. He wrote me a letter, in fact, and he said Dear Laura, you get me feel so stupid for ever causing you or your kind mother pain. Sorry. Please understand.

And even more satisfying was the letter he wrote to my father. Dear David, Laura was the mirror held up to your face that get me see you as a human being, deserved to be admired and respected. I apologize for not understanding Laura's message from the beginning. And that made me feel, like, OK I got revenge.

ZAHN: I have chills hearing that. I mean did you ever expect that that was the kind of response you were going to get ...

BLUMENFELD: No.

ZAHN: ... once you confronted this guy?

BLUMENFELD: No. I knew that what I was pursuing an outsized and naive goal to try to get a hardcore ideal terrorist, somebody was ready to kill for his political beliefs. I knew that that was an almost impossible goal but I had to try. It was everything my parents taught me and everything that we learned in this country.

ZAHN: So within the context of what is happening in the Middle East, with all the hardened positions on both sides, what is it, do you think, that this personal journey you've taken should reveal to all of us?

BLUMENFELD: Well, I think that when you look somebody in the eye, it's hard to shoot them in the head. And I think that if it's possible to see -- if both sides can begin at least to see each other as individuals, we might be able to reduce the violence.

One of the saying that I picked up in the Middle East was, when you seek revenge, you should dig two graves, one for your enemy and one for yourself. And right now we see that they're out there digging. But these are dark times. I think my story offers a glimmer of hope.

ZAHN: And as you say this, I -- the audience can't tell but I can tell, you have a baby that's about a month away from coming. What a gift to this child to tell this story and to your father. Laura Blumenfeld thanks for dropping by. We have to very quickly go back to Jack for some breaking new. Congratulations on your book.

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