Ted Kaczynski is just another odd name in U.S. history to students at Judge Memorial Catholic High School — just a lesser known terrorist from the end of the last century.

But the message of forgiveness delivered to students Tuesday by the Unabomber's brother and a bombing victim was timeless.

The brother, David Kaczynski, and the victim, Gary Wright of Salt Lake City, are now friends. They appear together at speaking engagements across the country, talking about their individual experiences with Ted Kaczynski and the healing that has happened since he was arrested nine years ago this month.

Wright's violent brush with the Unabomber began one February morning in 1987 when he drove into the parking lot of the computer company he owned on 900 South. In his path was a piece of lumber, which he got out of his car to move, thus setting off a homemade bomb. It would take years for anyone to connect this apparently random event to a pattern of attacks that focused on businesses and institutions connected to technology. Eventually, the Unabomber was found responsible for 16 attacks, beginning in 1978, that led to three deaths and 29 injuries.

At the time, though, Wright couldn't understand why anyone would want to kill him. He spent three years in and out of casts, had three surgeries and had 200 pieces of shrapnel removed. It took him six years, he says, to understand that no matter who the perpetrator was, Wright would have to forgive.

That understanding came to him when he was driving his car, and was so forceful that he had to pull off the road, he says.

"If you believe in Christ," he found himself thinking, "you don't have a choice but to forgive this person, no matter what."

That was the moment, he says now, "when I could begin to heal."

Forgiveness, he told the students, was not about accepting what happened but caring enough about himself "to let the people around me see me happy."

Wright first met David Kaczynski after sentencing hearings for Ted. David Kaczynski called Wright to apologize for the pain his brother had caused, a call that led to a long, cathartic face-to-face meeting. David Kaczynski also apologized to other victims and to the families of the three people his brother had killed.

David Kaczynski told the students about the soul-searching he went through when he first began to suspect Ted might be the person law enforcement called the Unabomber. It was his wife, Linda, a philosophy professor at a college in upstate New York, who first wondered if the bomber who hated technology might be Ted.

David remembers his brother as a gentle man, so at first it seemed inconceivable that Ted could have been so violent. One of his first memories of Ted is from a time when David was 2 and Ted was about 10. The family had just moved to a home in the suburbs and David liked pushing open the door to get into the back yard but was too little to open the door and come back inside. So Ted rigged up a makeshift handle out of a spool of thread.

"Ted loved me. He cared for me," David Kaczynski says.

When the New York Times published Ted's rambling 35,000-word "manifesto" in 1996, David and Linda studied it for weeks, comparing it with letters David had received over the years as Ted left his teaching position at the University of California at Berkeley and moved to a remote cabin in Montana.

As it became clear that Ted probably was the Unabomber, David Kaczynski realized his dilemma: "Whatever choice we made could cause someone to die."

Ultimately, he says, the choice was between "being responsible or turning away."

It wasn't until Ted was arrested and his name made headlines around the world, though, that David Kaczynski was hit with the realization that "the name Kaczynski would be associated forever with violence, murder and madness."


E-mail: jarvik@desnews.com