The best way to explain the correspondence between Kathleen and Julie Busic is to through an excerpt from Life Detonated. A few of the letters from Julie are provided below.
I shouldn’t have been surprised when I got that first letter. Busic had escaped, and I felt it. Some electric current running from the Busics to me, that five-year denial of parole, like a bomb ticking my name. I stood in my kitchen, the sunlight weaving a patch-work on the floor, sorting through mail, when that postmark stopped me cold. Federal Corrections Facility, Dublin, California. Busic, J. Her handwriting was spidery, almost elegant. I could not bring myself to open it. Instead, I put it in the junk drawer and slammed it shut, as if it might burn me. . .
I had like to tell you my story, Julie Busic wrote. Enlighten you with the details of the hijacking. It was single-spaced, the words crammed into the legal size pages as though she had too much to say and not enough room to say it. Yes, I said to myself, moving to my cluttered desk and pushing aside my schoolwork to spread out the three pages. I want to know. Tell me. And then I will tell you my story, so you may know the harm you’ve do
Her words surprised me. She wrote that she knew she had been the cause of so much unjust human suffering. You are the one who has suffered most. How can saying how sorry I am ever be enough? Even the fact that I have languished in prison for so many years does not seem enough punishment for me. In the letter she swore that she would become a nun, that since my husband had been taken from me, she would do without hers as well, she would live because death would spare her the suffering she had inflicted on me. She said she was reminded every day what she had taken part in. Almost a whole page had been devoted to how grateful she was to write to me.
I looked up from the letter. Time seemed to have slid into a strange never-land I could not fathom. The house was still, the boys and James were sleeping, assured that I was working hard on my schoolwork. Most of my evenings had been spent here in my home office. I had run out of space on the shelves James built, and a small mountain of Toni Morrison’s books were on the desk, Angelou was on the upholstered chair. Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Virginia Wolfe, and Flannery O’Connor piled on the floor, and they seemed to look on as I wrote back.
Writing back to Julie may be a big mistake, I thought, but ultimately who would better understand what I went through than the person who put me there in the first place? The temptation to write back to her was irresistible. Say whatever you feel, she wrote, and so I sat down at my old Selectric. Okay. You want to tell me what happened, go ahead. I’ll listen. Then I’m going to tell you what happened to me because of your arrogance and misguided loyalty, and why I can’t understand, since you were born in Oregon, you became a martyr for another country’s independence and saw fit to encourage a scheme that endangered so many lives.
And that’s how it began with Julie Busic. The arrival of the postman took on a new significance as I imagined a letter in his bag, anticipated the truths she would reveal. What I remember most about those months and years was Julie’s presence in them, how it somehow eclipses so much of what went on.