Hundreds join in mourning as Talovics bury their only son
TALOVICI, Bosnia-Herzegovina - Sulejman Talovic, who shot and killed five people at Trolley Square mall in Salt Lake City nearly three weeks ago, was buried Saturday in his family's war-ravaged hamlet.
More than 300 people - most of them strangers - paid their respects to his heartbroken parents, who expressed grief and sorrow as well as appreciation for the people of Utah.
''I am so sorry for my child. . . . I am sorry for all the other victims and their families,'' said Sulejman's father, Suljo Talovic. ''There are no words to describe how saddened I am, and how great the people of Salt Lake City are.''
His wife, Sabira Talovic, was inconsolable. Two cousins held her, trying to stanch her crying and silence her screams.
The cousins sprinkled her with water, but it didn't help. Sabira fainted and collapsed on the wet grass less than a yard from the casket.
The body of 18-year-old Sulejman Talovic, who was killed in a gunbattle with police at the mall, arrived by plane Friday in Sarajevo. His parents, who came to Utah as refugees in the late 1990s with their son and three daughters, arrived in Bosnia the same day.
A hearse brought the remains to Talovici, northeast of the Bosnian capital, on Saturday. The open casket was placed next to the Talovic family's home for a viewing.
The home, which the family was forced to flee in 1993 at the height of the Bosnian war, was badly damaged by invading Bosnian Serb forces, which ''cleansed'' eastern and northern Bosnia of Muslims and Croats. The Talovic family is Muslim.
Talovici - which today is home to just eight of the 60 families who lived there before the war - is not far from the infamous town of Srebrenica, where more than 7,000 Muslim men and boys were murdered over two days in July 1995. It was the worst massacre in Europe since World War II.
As a result, many of the locals who attended Sulejman Talovic's viewing were women, although it is not customary for Muslim women to be present at such an event.
The women walked slowly by the casket and wept quietly.
Suljo Talovic was more stoic. He talked with friends, relatives and people he didn't know. He loudly called out for everyone who wanted to look at his son's body one last time.
One of the strangers was Sarajevo resident Almir Secerkadic, formerly of Srebrenica.
''As you can see, a lot of people came to attend the funeral. People are compassionate, and they will not let that a funeral occurs without any men present," he said. "Because of that, so many people are attending, even though I didn't expect it.''
Sabira Talovic's brother, Alibeg Jahic, who now lives in Austria, also came to the funeral.
''We talked on the phone with the Talovic family once or twice a year. They always said good things about their life in America," Jahic said. "They worked, earned income. What Sulejman did came as a shock to all of us.''
Another Talovic relative, Sacir Talovic, said his family has no history of violence.
''None of our family members never committed similar act,'' Sacir Talovic said. ''As far as I know, and I have been working on our family tree for some time now - not one member of our family was ever in prison, let alone killed or hurt anyone.''
Before the casket was taken to the cemetery, lead imam Sulejman Sulejmanovic asked all the gathered women if they would ''halaliti'' (forgive) all of Sulejman's sins before he departed to another world. By tradition, the question was repeated three times, and the women forgave Sulejman.
By Muslim custom, the casket was moved from hand to hand by the men all the way to the grave, where it was placed headfirst by the closest family member, in this case, Suljo Talovic. Only men were allowed to witness the burial.
After the prayers led by three imams, the question: ''Are we going to forgive?'' was repeated three more times.
''He is forgiven!'' said the men gathered.
As they walked slowly by the grave and threw soil on the casket, reporters approached Sulejmanovic. One reporter asked: ''If the families of Talovic's victims were present here, would they forgive Talovic for his sins?''
''The only way we would know if they would forgive is if they were present here,'' said the imam, who expressed his ''deepest condolences to all the saddened families'' in Salt Lake City.
''Only great Allah knows why Sulejman Talovic did this,'' Sulejmanovic said.
The imam said the victims of the Trolley Square shootings should know that ''we Bosnians are not maniacs, that we are normal and mellow people.''
* DARIO NOVALIC is editor of the Sarajevo-based magazine START BiH. Ina Skaljic, a Bosnia native and former Utahn now living in Tuzla, Bosnia-Herzegovina, translated this story into English.