Into the Abyss — A Tale of Death, A Tale of Life

Werner Herzog, German film director at the reception following an advanced preview

Good Morning, God!

Suz was lucky enough to be given tickets the night I arrived to an advanced preview of a documentary film
Into the Abyss by Werner Herzog. It’s about a triple homicide in Texas and the execution of one of the two “killers.”

My first thought was “Oh No!” But, Werner is an amazing human being and a trustworthy guide into what did feel like an abyss. His interviews with the people involved were respectful and honest. He let the people — police, families of the victims, and the murderers and their families speak.

The interviews keep replaying in my mind. This morning, I’m “seeing” the one of Fred Allen, a Captain of the Death House in the prison in Texas. His job was to “take care of” the person to be executed in the last 24 hours — and then to preside at the strapping of the person on to the gurney. He said for a while there he was doing 2 executions a week. His last one was the execution of a woman. He told how she had thanked him for being so kind to her.

Oh God, you could see how stricken he was sharing that. Then he talked about how that evening, when he got home after the execution, his body started to shake. He couldn’t stop shaking and he just stood and shook and wept and knew — he couldn’t do it any more.

So often, God, we take things like Capital Punishment and take positions on them involving principles and philosophies. That’s all very well. But the story of Fred Allen seems so much more to the point. Every cell in his body shook and cried out — no more.

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