Steve retired that year, four months after his family won a wrongful-death judgment against the Islamic Republic of Iran in U.S. District Court; Iran was found to have backed the Hezbollah terrorists who gunned down Malcolm. Andrew and Susan were the driving forces behind the suit, which was the Kerrs' way of meeting a violent act with a nonviolent call for justice. No Iranian official ever responded to the suit. The court's decision & order was sent to each family member in the mail, and this is what it said about Malcolm's murder:
"Each plaintiff has a vivid recollection of the horrific moment they first learned of it. Although none of the plaintiffs have sought professional counseling to help cope with their grief, choosing instead to rely on one another for solace, they nonetheless continue to experience intense sorrow and anguish at the remembrance of his death. ... Even 19 years after Malcolm's death, his absence is still mourned at every family milestone: the weddings of his children, for example, and the birth of each grandchild."
The court awarded Ann Kerr $10 million in compensatory damages and an additional $8.025 million as executrix of the Malcolm Kerr estate. Steve, Susan, John and Andrew were each awarded $3 million. The family sought no punitive compensation -- "How can you put a price on someone's life?" Susan asked -- and understood that Iran would never pay a dime.
It was never about money. It was always about accountability.
"Receiving that judgment," Susan recalled, "it was all very sad. It was almost a letdown when it came in the mail. It was just so final, and in the end, we didn't bring back the person we all loved."
Ann Kerr, 79 and remarried, was the rock who kept her family from coming undone, leading by example by never abandoning the Middle East or her husband's devotion to it. She took a teaching job in Cairo after Malcolm's death, and, without telling her children, she returned to Beirut for a 1985 service on the one-year anniversary of the assassination.
She has made numerous trips back to Beirut, where three of her children were born, including Steve, and, through a scholarship program in her husband's name, she has sent students into the region for study. "She was determined to keep building bridges," Susan said. "But that isn't to say our lives weren't destroyed simultaneously by what happened, at least until everybody found a way through."
Andrew dealt with the pain by blocking out all memory of the events surrounding his father's final day, except for the bulletin he heard on the radio. He would wear a mouth guard in bed so he wouldn't grind his teeth down to the nub, and sometimes he was haunted in the night by the sounds of his mother sobbing in a nearby room. Andrew ultimately took a job with the National Security Council, and he was adamant that Hezbollah and Iran be held formally responsible for the killing the way they would be in federal court.