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Vigil for Dr. George Tiller in Columbia – June 2, 2009 – part 1

Sean Spence, a Columbia area activist, spoke of his personal experiences with Dr. George Tiller:

Sean Spence:…I’m here tonight for a, for a fairly personal reason. Over, over the course of nineteen ninety-seven, nineteen ninety-eight I had the good fortune to work with Dr. Tiller on political issues in, in Kansas. And I’ve been to that clinic and sat down, many times, over dinner with him and always felt very fortunate to spend time with him.

One of the things…I, I liked about him was his sense of humor. And, and at one point after we’d been together a few times and talked about some fairly weighty issues, as one does in this political world. We, we talked about the time when he was shot. Which was just a few years before, before that. Which was a few years after he had been bombed. This is what we’re talking about. And he said, he said, “Well you know I was shot here.” [indicating forearm] And he said, “People always kind of wonder, ’cause I was in my car, how was I, how was I shot here? And I said, “Well, how were you shot there, Dr. Tiller?” And he said, “Well she came up to the car,” you know, she, this women who’d flown in from Oregon. You know we talk about the rage and the insanity in these things. And to me it’s personified by a woman, flew from Oregon specifically to carry out murder on someone who is doing something he believed in. And he said, “Well she came up to the car and, and I didn’t know, but I knew there was something going on, and I knew that she was just one of the, one of them. And, so I flipped her off.” [laughter] “That was when she pulled the trigger.” [laughter] To me that, that really did say a lot about, about him. Both sides of that.

I want to tell you that I’m a little bit ashamed to be here tonight. It’s a little emotional. And, and the reason is because when…I called…to ask if we were going to be doing anything. And, and then I mentioned that I’d had some fairly personal experiences with Dr. Tiller. And she said, “Would you say something?” And, you know, I, I told her I had to think about it. And, I, I said, “Well, let me, let me think about it and I’ll let you know later today or tomorrow.”  And I’m embarrassed. That I, that I had to do that. He’s a controversial  man, again, kind of in this world of ours. A man who shouldn’t be controversial. A man who is providing an essential, was providing an essential service for women who needed it in a way most of the women in here will never understand, much less me. I’m certainly never gonna understand. But he was doing something, and he felt it in his heart, in a way that is just incomprehensible. And so to him it was not something that should be controversial and it, and it shouldn’t be. And as I thought about that I was just embarrassed that I didn’t immediately say, “Well yes, let me stand up. Let, let me share my experience and, and my heart on, on this issue.”

Because, you know what, he sure, sure did a lot more than that. You know, every day. Let me tell you what you go through that, in to that, that clinic and it was kind of like, you know, the compound in The Godfather, you know. I mean it was, it was walls and it was, it had to be. Except that it was picketed, you know, all day, every day. There were people who were there all day every day. And he, to get to work, to provide an essential service that very few people in the world were willing to brave the problems to provide, he went there and he did it. And he did it every day. And he did it after his clinic was bombed. And he did it after he was shot. And he did it, and he did it, and he did it, and he stood up.

And it’s the least I can do, stand up and say a few things. And it’s the least all of us can do and, and I think he should be an example for all of us. In every way he’s an example for me. And he’s a reminder that the least we can do, the least every one of us can do, is stand up and talk about what’s right, and talk about what’s in our hearts and do what ever little bit we can. That’s what it means to me…