When I think of Nilsen now, how he came and vanished again in that one day, I don’t feel any warmer towards him in the remembering than I did when he was here. I don’t even feel grateful for what he gave me, because he and his kind kept it from me for so long. But I do think of the difficult journey he made, and why he made it. What set him off, he told me, was seeing me being interviewed on television, after Khalil Khazar’s death. He said he’d watched the interview over and over. He’d wanted to feel what I felt. But you cannot feel what another person feels. You cannot even imagine it, however hard you try. This I know.
When Khalil Khazar died, the news went round the world in minutes— in text messages, in e-mails, through social networks, on radio and television, via websites and by telephone. I got the call at home from Patrick Bridger, a BBC journalist I knew and trusted. We’d talked, a week or so before the end, about what we would do and where we would film, knowing that it could not be long. ‘Alan, I’m on my way with a cameraman and a soundman,’ Patrick said. ‘We’ll pick you up and head straight to the location.’ I didn’t take any more calls. I was giving Patrick an exclusive. It was a way of controlling things.
While I waited for their car I thought about how the news would be received in different parts of the globe. There would be tears, I knew, but also there would be laughter. There would be grief and jubilation, clasped hands and clenched fists, loud dismay and quiet satisfaction. There would be one family mourning, other families celebrating. Some people would feel a sense of resolution, of justice having been done. Others would feel, as I did, a sense of things unresolved, of justice having not been done. A guilty man or an innocent man had gone to his grave: it depended on your perspective.