I came across the life of Norman Morrison and his brave and mysterious act of sacrifice while researching Robert McNamara and Vietnam War-era politics for another play. I read a biography that focused on five individuals whose own lives served as political allegories for McNamara’s life and times. The chapter called ”The Burning of Norman R. Morrison” has since been read dozens of times, with more text underlined than not. Simply put, I was astonished at the mythical improbability, the unimaginable sense of mission, the surging and conflicting emotions that propelled a young husband and father, level-headed, somewhat reserved but always passionate, to get inside his car and drive off with his infant daughter to do what he did. For the sake of a nation of humans half a world away, none of whom he’d ever met, seen or spoken to. I’ve since been inside my own car with either of my two young children and tried to imagine how such a thing could be possible in a father’s mind: to say goodbye to your family forever, let alone to risk bringing your youngest child into the fire with you. I don’t know how he was able to do it, but I still feel only admiration for what he did. I can only use the word admiration because I’ve been told by Norman’s wife and daughter Emily that, without a shadow of a doubt, they remain proud of his choice and action on that day.
Although I’m not sure if he coined the phrase, Norman Morrison once said that “Without the inspired act, no generation resumes the search for love.” The generation that Norman Morrison inspired emboldened themselves with a conviction of love for all humanity that helped topple unstoppable forces. It’s a beautiful concept to imagine that the power of love, light and courage can always outlive hate, darkness and fear.
October 21-November 12