Sunday, January 02, 2011

Tale from Rognac, France alters family's history

Here is the latest entry written by Frank Sortelli of Chandler, Arizona. The page above is from his great-great grandfather's journal where he copied a letter he wrote about the accident which changed the course of his family's history.

"In October of 1878 in the small town of Rognac, France a tragedy occurred that would have a profound effect on the mind of a young man. The resulting memories of this event would influence a large segment of the intellectual movement in France in the beginnings of the 20th century. This young man’s name was Henri Ner, my great-great uncle, and he would later become a leading voice of the pacifist and anarchist movements in France as a member of the French Academy and an author of over 60 novels and philosophical books.

Through the families of his father and mother, Jacques Ner and Virginie Campdoras he was immersed in the ideals of the French Republic and the Church. His maternal uncle risked his life in a coup d’├ętat against the tyrannical Napoleon III and was banished from France in 1851 for his belief in these sacred ideals. His mother had a deep faith in the grace of God and the entire family would attend mass regularly. Already known by the priests in his school to have a superior intelligence they had foreseen for him a life in the Church.

On October 22, 1878 this all changed. His father and mother were on their way to church to assist in the Mass and were traversing the train tracks in the station where Jacques was the postmaster. Just as they were crossing the tracks they were both hit by a goods wagon that had been stationary a moment before. Jacques pushed his wife away in an attempt to protect her and the last thing he heard before he was hit was her anguished cry. Jacques thought that this cry was made in fear for his safety but, alas, it was the final cry of Virginie as she was fatally injured by the moving train car. Jacques, himself, lost his arm but his thoughts were always for his wife as he tried in vain to save her.

The teen aged Henri never forgave God for the accident that took away his beloved mother from him and from then on lived in complete denial of the validity of religion and of God. While the rest of the family kept their faith he spent the rest of his life writing about man’s place alone in the universe and of having no need for religion."
Thanks, Frank, for your entry and for sharing a momentous and tragic story you uncovered while researching your family history.

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