NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A federal judge whose son was shot and killed and husband wounded is delivering a powerful message.
The deadly attack happened at the judge’s home in New Jersey.
Three months later, she says she’s forgiven the killer.
“And it was so loud. I almost thought it was mini bombs or something,” said U.S. District Court Judge Esther Salas in an emotional interview on Good Morning America.
Salas described the tragedy that unfolded on July 19, when a gunman came to her family’s home in Middlesex County. Her husband, Mark Anderl, was shot three times and survived. Their 20-year-old son Daniel was killed.
“I lifted his shirt. I saw the bullet hole. Mark managed to crawl back. And we were both just watching him fade away,” she said.
Police identified 72-year-old Roy Den Hollander as the shooter. The self-described anti-feminist lawyer was later found dead of suicide.
Judge Salas was the intended target of the attack at her home.
“I know that he hated me because I was a woman. He hated me because I was Latina. And that was his source of hate,” she said.
Despite the intense grief, Judge Salas and her husband have forgiven their son’s killer.
“And from the moment I did that, I felt lighter. Hate is heavy. Love is light,” she said.
To some, it may seem unthinkable forgive someone for such an act. But clinical psychologist Dr. Judy Kuriansky says it can help the victims of tragedy to find closure.
“Forgiveness is a wonderful way for people to deal with such a terrible, tragic loss, like the murder of a child. You have to have a deep sense of faith and spirituality,” Dr. Kuriansky said. “But it’s also important to forgive yourself. Because parents who lose a child often blame themselves: what they should have done or could have done to stop it.”
As for Judge Salas, she says she plans to return to the bench, and hopes to become a better person to honor her son.
“This man took the most important thing in my life. I can’t let him take anything else. I know that I’m going to strive every morning to be the best person I can be. My son gave his life for his father and I,” Salas said.
New Jersey’s assembly passed a bill named after Daniel that would prohibit posting the addresses of judges and prosecutors.
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