Internationally-known human rights activist Dr. Alison L. Des Forges was a victim of the crash of Flight 3407 on February 12, 2009. Alison worked to improve public education in Buffalo and was for the last twenty years Senior Advisor to the Africa Division of Human Rights Watch. As a historian she was one of the world’s leading experts on Rwanda. Her book, Leave None to Tell the Story: Genocide in Rwanda, is a landmark account of the 1994 genocide. Her tireless efforts to awaken the international community to the horrors of that event earned her a MacArthur Foundation Award in 1999.

Alison was a gifted storyteller, an invaluable mentor, and an inspirational teacher. Her formidable intellect was rivaled only by her tenacity, her empathy, and her apparently limitless energy.

She was brilliant not because of the amount she knew (which was considerable) but because of her capacity for compassion, her ferocity of spirit, her work ethic, and her ability to listen to a million people speaking at once. All those voices that most tune out – she heard. She could read a silly story to her grandchildren, then kneel down at Montessori School and listen to a five year old tell her about his drawing of his family. Then she could stand up and be the best friend a person ever had. Then she could fly halfway around the world and listen to a devastated nation screaming for justice. And she managed to give her full attention to everyone all the time.

The world may be full of misery, but it was also full of Alison. No one who met her can doubt that heroes exist.

For more about Alison, visit this Wikipedia article.