She was six months pregnant when her husband, Wall Street Journal bureau chief Danny Pearl, was abducted and killed in Pakistan. Now Mariane Pearl opens up about their sweet, unconventional love affair, the beauty of her husband's spirit, and the challenge to be hopeful no matter what.
The Manhattan apartment of Mariane Pearl—widow of Wall Street Journal bureau chief Daniel Pearl, who was kidnapped and executed in Pakistan by Islamic militants—is filled with the signs of life beginning again. Mariane and Danny's 1-year-old son, Adam, from his crib in the corner of the living room, claps and bops his head up and down to a French version of Barney on TV. From the next room, Latin tunes waft through the air and mix with the rich aroma of the Cuban coffee Mariane offers me. Before we sit down to talk—she'll take her spot on what she says was Danny's favorite recliner—she shows me a photo of their wedding day: Normandy, 1999. A moment later, the beat beckons. "I love this music," she says, allowing the rhythms of her heritage—her mother is Cuban, her late father Dutch and Jewish; she was raised in France—to sweep her into a salsa swing. "I have to dance to live."
Hard to believe that only a year and a half ago, Mariane survived an unthinkable tragedy, one that began two days after she and Danny discovered that the baby she was carrying was a boy. On January 23, 2002, Danny was abducted in Karachi, Pakistan; he'd been on his way to conduct an interview for a story that would possibly link would-be shoe bomber Richard C. Reid with a radical Muslim cleric. Four days later, his captors, the National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty, sent the media an e-mail accusing Pearl of spying for the United States, and demanding better treatment of detainees in Guantánamo, Cuba. On January 30, a second e-mail from the kidnappers threatened that Pearl would be murdered in 24 hours and other American journalists in Pakistan risked death unless they all left within three days. That same day, Muhammad Ali issued an appeal for Pearl's release and Mariane herself made a plea for her husband's life on CNN. Despite their impassioned efforts, on February 21, a three-and-a-half-minute video delivered to the U.S. Consulate in Karachi showed Daniel Pearl having his throat cut and his head severed. Last summer on July 15, a court in Pakistan sentenced Sheik Ahmed Omar Saeed to death, and three more men to life terms in prison, for Pearl's kidnapping and murder.
Mariane's spirit is indomitable. With every gesture she uses to punctuate her words, with every pronouncement she makes that those who killed Danny will not destroy her, she exudes a fiery conviction born of deep pain. This is a woman who has turned the horror of her loss into a commitment to honor the two principles by which Danny lived his life—ethics and truth. This is a woman who is keeping her husband's legacy alive in her new book, A Mighty Heart: The Brave Life and Death of My Husband, Danny Pearl (Scribner). This is a woman who has decided that, however devastating her sorrow, she must rise up and dance again.
Start reading Oprah's interview with Mariane Pearl
Note: This interview appeared in the October 2003 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine.
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