Peace is the objective A Family Affair

London-born Amy Eldon, 24, grew up in Kenya with her older brother, Dan. In July 1993, Dan was stoned to death by an angry mob while covering the conflict in Somalia for Reuters. Amy recently made her first visit to the place where Dan was killed, accompanied by her mother Kathy, 52, also a journalist, and a TV documentary crew

Amy's story

Dan and I grew up together in Africa. He was the most positive life force that I have ever come across. To think that all that energy could be crushed by hatred was difficult, as I always thought that positivity would redeem everything. It took me a long time to come to terms with that.

I was at college in the US studying international relations when Dan died. After his death, I dropped out of school to get a clearer perspective on what really mattered. I became aware that I was the only one in control of my own destiny. He was only 22, but he was my older brother. He'd looked out for me. I was 18. Suddenly I thought: "My god, it really is up to me."

Soon afterwards I switched to studying broadcasting at Boston University but found little peace. I was still grappling with why Dan would have gone into this crazy profession. I wanted to understand what drew him to such a violent place - I'd heard so many dreadful stories. I wanted to find out who he would have become, had he lived.

I wrote a treatment in class for a documentary about photojournalists. It got a B+, which was fine. But there was more to it than that. My mother and I worked on it some more, together. We took it to Turner Broadcasting, and they said: "Go ahead."

Initially I was wary when they suggested I should be in it and that it should feature Dan. I really had to trust them not to film me crying throughout the whole thing. The English side of me is very private, but my mother is American, and that side of me said: "Get it out there." Besides, I felt a responsibility to pick up where he left off, in a way. Not to become a photojournalist in Somalia, but to try to make people aware that whatever happens - Rwanda, Bosnia, wherever - effects us all.

We were taken to the compound where Dan was killed by a Somali woman whose brother had also been killed there. That was really important to me - to see that these Somalis had lost so much as well. My mother, I and our entire family understand what they have been through. We don't blame them for what happened. We understand the rage, but not the actual killing.

People ask me: "Did you find closure in Somalia?" You never do - it's a continuing process. I'll never say: "There you go, that's done." But I did find peace for myself - and hope.

What helped more than anything was talking to people - hearing stories of compassion within all the horror. What really hurt was when I spoke to one foreign correspondent who told me she had no hope left. I felt betrayed because no matter what Dan saw, he remained optimistic. You have to use the horror to do something constructive.

Otherwise it would rot, fester and eat you up.

Our parents always told us never to leave the house angry, to sort out whatever you have to sort out today. The beauty with Dan is that I don't have anything left to resolve - we are at peace. He knows that I love him, that I wasn't angry with him, and he wasn't angry with me. I see people who aren't getting on well with their families and I want to shake them, and tell them: "Wake up."

That's why I am now working closely with my mother on a range of ideas, including a children's communication project and a book on bereavement. We are very compatible as a team. We bring together the perspective of two different generations. In meetings I can tell her if she's got something stuck in her teeth. She says I tend to be rather conservative. I think sometimes I cramp her style. But it's not an incestuous thing - we have very different lives and a clear respect for each other's privacy. We've been each other's strength.

Kathy's story

There was a bombing of a house in Mogadishu and over 100 people were killed or maimed. So when the journalists came people were really angry about what had happened and lashed out. It wasn't a racist thing - because there were two Africans who were also killed at the same time as Dan. It was an enraged response to a totally unjust act.

I didn't think anything would happen to him because I was a journalist, and you operate under this naive belief that everything will be fine. We lived in Kenya at the time. He was so streetwise and so Africa-wise. He kept saying, "Mum, I won't die", and I kept saying, "Great Dan, fine - be careful". "I won't die" - it's a standard approach. I used to say it myself when I was a journalist in Kenya after the coup in 1982.

The last month before his death I was uncomfortable, because it was very dangerous in Somalia. The night he was killed, I had nightmares. Some time before, as I boarded an aeroplane, I wondered what it is like if you have lost someone and have to take a plane ride to a funeral. I had never had such thoughts or feelings in my life.

I was at peace with his death before Amy and I went to Somalia. This is because I was at peace with my relationship with him before he was killed. Ever since the kids were little, we respected them as individuals and treated them as if they had something important to say.

We listened to them and tried hard to encourage their creativity. We were lucky. We were close. We didn't leave things unsaid.

His death had a drastic effect on the direction of our lives. I'd spent a lifetime as a journalist - a communicator - yet, although many of my articles were sensibly important, I came to think what I was doing didn't really matter.

Dan's death focused my attention on issues, ideas, people, humanity, our role and responsibilities as individuals effecting change in the world. I now feel my whole life in a way has been a training ground for what I am now doing with TV, books and plans for a film.

We went to Somalia to tell Dan's story. It was dangerous and a tough experience - especially on Amy. In a curious sort of way during the trip I was more concerned about Amy and whether she would survive it intact emotionally. She was his little sister. But, when we came back we felt quite exhilarated about the life he had led. We had talked to people who had known and worked with him. Many were surprised that we didn't leave feeling sadder, but our trip wasn't so much about the death he had experienced, but the life he had enjoyed.

I now realise I have another 40 or 50 years ahead to focus on issues I'm really passionate about. Dan gave me that gift. I didn't want it, but it was a gift - of clarity and of vision.

Interviews by Meg Carter

Amy and Kathy Eldon's documentary, `Dying to Tell the Story', will be broadcast in the UK on CNN International on 4 December

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
    Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

    Fifa corruption arrests

    All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
    Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

    The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

    In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

    Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
    Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

    How Stephen Mangan got his range

    Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
    The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

    The ZX Spectrum is back

    The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
    Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

    Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

    The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
    Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

    Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

    If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
    The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

    The quirks of work perks

    From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
    Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

    Is bridge becoming hip?

    The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
    Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

    The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

    Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
    The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

    The rise of Lego Clubs

    How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
    5 best running glasses

    On your marks: 5 best running glasses

    Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
    Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

    'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

    Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
    Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

    Please save my husband

    As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada