Seated in their Encino, Calif., living room, Ruth and Judea Pearl gaze fondly but sadly at the photos on their mantelpiece. One is a poster-size picture of their son, slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, on his wedding day with his wife, Mariane, a French journalist. Another is of the couple’s baby son Adam, born last May, four months after Daniel was murdered in Pakistan by Islamic extremists. “I don’t know how I’m going to react to Adam,” says Ruth, 65, who admits she’s a bit nervous as she prepares to meet her only grandson for the first time. Health reasons kept the couple from traveling, so the Pearls have had to wait for Adam and his mother to come to California. “It’s a mixture,” says granddad Judea, 66, in anticipation of the big day. “On the one hand, I’m going to feel sorry Danny’s not there, but then I’ll be happy,” he says, making a cradling motion with his arms, “because ‘Here’s Danny.'”
Five days later, on Sept. 27, the much-anticipated meeting finally took place at the Pearls’ four-bedroom home. Any nervousness dissolved into tears of joy. Mariane, who moved to New York City recently to work on a book about her late husband’s life, showed off her son. “He is just gorgeous and very smiley,” said Ruth of the baby. “It really helps to have Danny’s son.”
It also helps that Ruth and Judea Pearl have found a mission: commemorating what would have been their son’s 39th birthday on Oct. 10 with public concerts in Los Angeles, Karachi, Paris, Bangkok, Beijing and more than 100 other cities. The musical events—all part of Daniel Pearl Music Day—will raise awareness about a foundation to promote ties between the West and the Islamic world through such ventures as music production, radio broadcasts and internships for journalists. “Hate killed Danny,” says Judea, “and we’ve got to fight hate by all kinds of means.”
The Pearls can take pride that their best weapon is their own son’s legacy of tolerance and understanding. “Lots of people write us to say they are going to raise their kids like Danny,” says Ruth. College sweethearts who immigrated to this country from Israel in 1960, the Pearls initially settled in suburban New Jersey, where their two oldest children, Tamara, 41, a homeopath, and Daniel were born while Judea and Ruth studied graduate-level electrical engineering. In 1966 they moved to Southern California, where third child Michelle, now 32 and an epidemiologist, joined the family. There, Judea entered the then-new field of artificial intelligence and eventually became a professor at UCLA. A retired computer consultant, Ruth spent four years at home raising the kids, whom the couple exposed to different cultures during trips to Europe and Israel. Thirteen-year-old Daniel celebrated his bar mitzvah in Jerusalem and spent a year at an Israeli high school. From then on he felt a special attraction to the region. “He spent so much time in the Mideast,” says his sister Tamara. “He really loved it.”
After graduating from Stanford in 1985 and working for small newspapers, he moved up the ranks of The Wall Street Journal, eventually becoming the paper’s South Asia bureau chief, stationed in Bombay. Mariane, whom Daniel met at a party in Paris in 1998 and married the following year, had accompanied him on a trip to Karachi to report on Islamic extremists when he disappeared on Jan. 23. Mariane telephoned the Pearls in California with the bad news the next day. “There is no way to describe it. Your world collapses,” says Ruth, who had dreamed that night about meeting Daniel, who appeared to be cold and gripped by intense fear.
For nearly a month the Pearls waited in excruciating uncertainty. “There was no point where we thought it wasn’t going to work out,” says Judea, “[but we knew that as time passed] Danny’s chances diminished.” Finally, on Feb. 21, a video confirming their son’s brutal death was delivered to the U.S. consulate in Karachi. Since then the Pearls have preferred to keep their grief to themselves. “It’s painful for us when people try to console us, because you really can’t say anything,” says Ruth. It has helped that both of their daughters live on the West Coast—and that, after 42 years of marriage, Ruth and Judea have each other. “My dad thought he wouldn’t be able to go on if Danny didn’t come through alive,” says Michelle. “But they definitely hold each other up.”
Clearly wary of coming across like victims, Ruth and Judea view the upcoming musical celebration of Daniel’s birthday as a way of sharing some of the joy of his life. Wherever he went, says Ruth, Danny, who played violin and piano, sought out fellow musicians. “Music was the vehicle he used to communicate, and we hope to use it to prevent other tragedies,” says Ruth. “It’s a way of keeping Danny alive.”
Karen Brailsford in Encino