Family Remembers Nick Berg

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Relatives of Nicholas Berg (search), the young American entrepreneur beheaded in Iraq, have taken different paths as they've searched for solace in the year since his death.

His father, Michael Berg, has intensified his anti-war activities and traveled the globe to meet families of other civilians kidnapped or slain in Iraq. His weekly peace vigil at a suburban Philadelphia courthouse and frequent interviews contrast sharply with the response of his wife, Suzanne, who has grieved privately since her son's body was found on a Baghdad street on May 8, 2004.

"We're through the worst of the friction that emerged from my wife's very private way of mourning and my very public way of mourning," said Michael Berg, who retired from teaching a few years ago.

"My wife and I will be married 38 years in August. We haven't gotten through 38 years without any problems, but we've learned what our priorities are," he said.

Meanwhile, sister Sara Berg has quietly pursued information on her younger brother's death through the Freedom of Information Act (search) and cautious searches of the Internet, where video of Nick's murder can still be viewed, deepening the family's anguish.

"What if I have a curious child who wants to look that up?" said Sara Berg, who does not yet have children. "Is that still going to be available on the Internet?"

Nick Berg, 26, a small contractor who hoped to find work repairing radio towers in Iraq, went missing April 10, 2004, after leaving his Baghdad hotel.

The video that surfaced shows Berg in an orange jumpsuit being held by captors and then being beheaded by a man who some U.S. officials believe to be Jordanian-based terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (search), who has ties to al-Qaida.

Since Berg's beheading, at least 14 Americans have been kidnapped or gone missing, and at least three killed. Another 200 foreigners have also been seized.

Michael Berg holds President Bush chiefly responsible for his son's death, blaming what he sees as Bush's abuse of power.

He also believes the United States was behind the detention of his son in an Iraqi prison from March 24 through April 6, a stay that led Nick Berg to miss a scheduled trip home. By the time he was released, the U.S. siege of Fallujah was under way, making travel in Iraq far more precarious.

Sara Berg neither holds Bush responsible nor considers Nick's death a result of the U.S.-led war in Iraq. Instead, she considers it the premeditated work of terrorists.

"Somebody who gets killed in war, that is not murder, legally. That is a killing," she said. "By calling (Nick's death) an act of war, it gives a certain legitimacy to it that I don't choose to give."

While she once believed that terrorists should be captured alive and tried, she now says the inherent risk of such a mission outweighs their right to a trial.

"These individuals are capable of such horrendous evil and show no appreciation for human life," Sara Berg said. Like her surviving brother, David, she does not want to disclose her profession or hometown to maintain some degree of privacy.

Her father has moved in the other direction. After meeting with the relatives of those killed in the Oklahoma City bombing in April, he has become interested in a philosophy known as "restorative justice," in which people are made to atone for wrongdoing in a way that benefits both their victims and themselves.

"Instead of my wishing harm to George Bush — whom I hold most culpable in my son's death — what I would like to see him do is maybe head up an organization ... that would establish an exchange citizen program" to send Americans into foreign homes for extended stays, Michael Berg said.

At 60, Berg regularly swims and bicycles, pursuits he sometimes shared with Nick, the youngest of his three children.

An ethnic Jew, Nick was devout and carried a Jewish prayer shawl, something that may have gotten him in trouble in Iraq. His father is an atheist, but sought out a course on forgiveness this spring at a Catholic college near his West Chester home.

"Forgiveness was something I had been wrestling with since the moment I got the phone call that Nick was dead," he said. "I had this huge burning fire within me, and I wanted to get rid of it."