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Grace amid grief

Adrian Hong is a human rights advocate in Los Angeles.

Dong Yun Yoon lost everything in a manner no one could have predicted or prepared for. Reports indicate a mechanical failure led an F/A-18D Hornet fighter to plow into his San Diego home on Monday, instantly taking the lives of his wife, two young daughters and mother-in-law.

Video taken by bystanders to the accident showed the house destroyed in an inferno of swirling flames and dark smoke. A newly sworn-in San Diego city councilwoman who is a former TV reporter breathlessly divulged the family’s name in an on-site report, before authorities had notified Yoon.

Then, the next day, during the grieving and stunned father’s news conference, a pair of Marine Corps jets, not unlike the one that hit his home, roared overhead. It was almost too much to bear, even watching it on television.

No one would have blamed Yoon for expressing anger, or even rage, on Tuesday. His world had crumbled in an instant.

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But despite his own overwhelming circumstances, amid tremendous sorrow, he began his remarks with a request for support for the pilot, who ejected before the crash and survived.

“I heard the pilot is safe. Please pray for him not to suffer from this accident. I know he is one of our treasures for our country. I don’t blame him. I don’t have any hard feelings. I know he did everything he could.”

In fact, Yoon blamed himself, as he spoke of his father-in-law on the way from South Korea to grieve for his lost wife, daughter and granddaughters. “I don’t know what to tell him. I don’t know how he’ll ever forgive me.”

In 1873, a man named Horatio Spafford sent his family to Europe ahead of him as he was delayed on business. On Nov. 22, the ship Ville du Havre, with Spafford’s wife and four daughters among the 313 on board, collided with an iron clipper. All four of his daughters died; his wife, Anna, was found floating unconscious on a plank of wood. She later cabled back to her husband in Chicago a short message: “Saved alone. What shall I do ... .”

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Spafford went on to write one of Christianity’s most beloved hymns, “It Is Well With My Soul,” which speaks of rest in the soul despite moments when “sorrows like sea billows roll.”

Then and now, facing unspeakable tragedy, anonymous, quiet men have reminded the world what it means to be a man of character, dignity, compassion and grace.

Yoon said Tuesday, as jets drowned out his voice: “I know there are many people who have experienced more terrible things. Please tell me how to do it, because I don’t know what to do.”

He showed us exactly what to do, and reminded everyone watching of the better angels of our nature.

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