Tue September 02 2008, 04:57 AMBF
American man remembers brother lost in Swissair crash
Everyone deals with death and tragedy differently says Miles Gerety, who lost his brother when Swissair Flight 111 crashed a decade ago.
Gerety prefers to remember his older brother's life and not his horrific death.
Pierce Gerety was Kofi Annan's point man in Africa for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees when he was killed in the crash after a trip home to the U.S. for a visit, Gerety said.
He was on his first vacation in years, visiting his wife and three children, when he got the call from Annan's office to go back to Africa and try to negotiate with President Kabila in the Republic of Congo, to stop the war, which was then raging and turning into a regional war.
The 56-year-old was booked on a KLM flight, but missed it and ended up on Swissair Flight 111.
"He was actually happy because it was going to Geneva where he had a place," Gerety said.
The most shocking thing about Pierce's death, Gerety said, was that he spent his life as a refugee aide, in some of the most dangerous spots on the planet and lived to tell the tale.
"So for him to die on a plain old commercial air flight, was kind of ironic and crazy," he said from his office where he works as a public defence lawyer in Connecticut.
"And the sad thing for his wife and kids was that Pierce was finally going to be out of the danger zone."
He was about to return to New York to be one of Annan's top aides.
His oldest brother's death, Gerety said, broke their mother's heart and she died a year and 11 months, to the day, after her son.
When Gerety is asked if he's angry about how his brother died he says: "No, my brother stood for a lot more than that."
Now, in 2008, Gerety's 23-year-old son Paddy, who was only 13 at the time Pierce died, is following in his uncle's footsteps.
Gerety remembers when Pierce and his wife visited them on their boat about three days before the plane crash and Pierce told Paddy: "If you want to help people, be a doctor, don't be a lawyer."
They all laughed because everyone in the family at the time, including Pierce, was a lawyer.
"It was really some of my brother's last words," Gerety said.
Paddy, who is currently in Namibia working as an AIDS health volunteer, just completed his MCATs in South Africa and will soon be attending medical school.
"There's a guy who's going to devote his life to third world medicine and my brother's death caused that in many ways," Gerety said.
Gerety and his family will not be returning to Peggy's Cove in Nova Scotia for a memorial ceremony for the victims of Swissair Flight 111. http://www.metronews.ca/halifax/local/article/106185