The cool explanation was troubling to Matthew. “He was giving me these supposedly logical reasons, and they didn’t make any sense. It was so hard for me to grasp that hatred and violence directed against a tiny kid. But he didn’t see a helpless kid, he saw an enemy. It was only later that I realized how painful it was for Tim to explain all that. That was part of what led to forgiveness.”
But Tim still had to ask for that forgiveness. The moment came unexpectedly a few months later while they were speaking to their first group of schoolchildren together about their story. Tim looked Matthew squarely in the eye in front of everyone and said the words it took him 26 years to muster. “I did it in a very safe and matter-of-fact manner,” Tim says. “After explaining to these kids what I had done, I said, ‘By the way Matthew, I am sorry.’ Matthew left the room because he was so emotional.”
The incredible story of their chance reunion, Tim’s apology, and Matthew’s forgiveness has transformed and healed both of them in extraordinary ways. Among other things, Matthew found the courage to reunite with his estranged siblings, and both men were invited to be in a documentary short film Facing Fear, which was nominated for an Academy Award this year.
But most importantly, it’s given them a powerful opportunity to share their story with young and old alike. It’s not easy. “Reliving the event is still extremely painful,” says Tim. “There are days when I don’t want to talk about it. But to reach all the other Matthews and Tims out there, I need to do it.”
And Matthew agrees.
“I am not the Dalai Lama,” says Matthew. “It was very uncomfortable at the beginning. But after running through all the emotions, Tim and I both realized that we possessed something very powerful, a unique story that could possibly help other people. And we felt if we all stood up and told our story we could save a lot of lives. The lesson is open your mouth, don’t stand in silence. Silence equals death.”
Tim and Matthew speak on the first Sunday of every month at 3p.m. at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles. For info about the film Facing Fear, visit facingfearmovie.com.