This is Alison Des Forges, at the graduation party my parents held for me and my friends back in 1988. Two summers later, in 1990, she helped me learn Scottish Highland dancing (we worked on the fling and the sword dance) during the last summer I spent living in my parents’ house.
This was when she was, to me, just my friend Sandy’s mom. It was her house our little group of friends went to after senior prom. She hosted us on New Years’ Eve our first winter break home from college, when we thought we might enjoy some alcoholic beverages. We wound up testing them to see which burned well and which didn’t, as opposed to drinking any. What a bunch of nerds we were. We grew up to be doctors and professors, travelers and teachers. And Alison, having raised her teenagers and gotten them off to college, tried to stop the genocide in Rwanda.
That’s what she’s known for, now. MacArthur “Genius Grant” awardee. Human Rights Watch Africa expert. But to me, she’s still Sandy’s mom, Jessie’s mom, Roger’s wife. And she’s gone, on that plane that crashed outside Buffalo last week. I’m glad I knew her, and the world is a much better place for having had her in it. My sympathies are with all who were touched by Alison.