You will not have my hatred
A grieving widower writes to his wife's killers
On this day in 2015, the lives of 130 people were cut short, and those of hundreds more irrevocably changed, when a wave of coordinated terrorist attacks brought unimaginable pain to the bustling city of Paris and its suburb, Saint-Denis. Eighty-nine of those deaths were lost at the Bataclan theatre, where gunmen opened fire indiscriminately within its walls as a jubilant audience danced and sang along to a live rock band. One of those eighty-nine was thirty-five-year-old Hélène Muyal, a make-up artist and music lover who was survived by her husband, Antoine, and their seventeen-month-old son. Soon after the attack tore his family apart, Antoine wrote an open letter to his wife’s killers.
On Friday evening you stole the life of an exceptional person, the love of my life, the mother of my son, but you will not have my hatred.
I don’t know who you are and I don’t want to know, you are dead souls. If this God for whom you kill blindly made us in his image, every bullet in the body of my wife is a wound in his heart.
So no, I will not give you the satisfaction of hating you. You want it, but to respond to hatred with anger would be to give in to the same ignorance that made you what you are.
You would like me to be scared, for me to look at my fellow citizens with a suspicious eye, for me to sacrifice my liberty for my security. You have lost.
I saw her this morning. At last, after nights and days of waiting. She was as beautiful as when she left on Friday evening, as beautiful as when I fell head over heels in love with her more than 12 years ago.
Of course I am devastated with grief, I grant you this small victory, but it will be short-lived. I know she will be with us every day and we will find each other in heaven with free souls which you will never have.
Us two, my son and I, we will be stronger than every army in the world. I cannot waste any more time on you as I must go back to my son who has just woken from his sleep. He is only just 17 months old. He is going to eat his snack just like every other day, then we are going to play like every other day and all his life this little boy will be happy and free. Because you will never have his hatred either.
In 2016, this letter was reprinted in Leiris’ memoir, You Will Not Have My Hate. In 2020, it also featured in the book, Letters of Note: Grief.
Refusal to hate is powerful. Forgiving the unforgivable is as well. Choosing to forget or downplay the identity of a perpetrator of a crime, an evil, a sin, robs the actor of infamy or notoriety.
When the goal of one’s actions is to inflame hate and terror, but someone refuses to feel them, to withhold that “energy” from the wrongdoers is often confusing and scary to them.
That level of strength of soul and heart is rare and amazing.
Refusing to hate when one has been horribly wronged is what the best of us achieve and the rest of us long to have.