My son was born in Würzburg, Germany, at nine seconds past midnight on the first of January, 2002. Two and a half months later we boarded an aeroplane at Frankfurt, one that would deliver us home. We had been living in Germany for four years and we were looking forward to seeing our families, and introducing them to our only child.
The journey, of course, was long and tiring. I nursed Harry, Alex changed him; we took turns walking up and down the aisle. Somewhere between Bangkok and Sydney Harry started crying and for an agonising half hour nothing we did would calm him. Then, suddenly, he fell asleep.
The aeroplane made a stop at Sydney before continuing on to Auckland. We filed into the transit gate-lounge and as I queued to go through the metal detector a passenger from our cabin approached me, placed her hand on Harry’s head and, speaking calmly, said, “Suffer and die.” I recoiled but, thinking I had misheard, asked her to repeat her comment. This time she looked at me, and in a steady voice said, “ I hope your baby suffers and dies.”