It happened when I was less than a year old - before I could talk. I was in my pram outside the grocery store, guarded by Peggy, our white bull terrier. Nanny was shopping inside. A dragonfly began swooping around me, and I screamed - so a well-intended passerby hit the dragonfly to the ground with his newspaper, and crushed it with his foot. I continued to scream all the way home. In fact I became so hysterical that they called the doctor, who prescribed a sedative to calm me down. I heard this story for the first time about five years ago. Vanne was writing about my early life and asked if I could remember the incident at all - why had I been so terrified?
As I read what she had written, the sixty intervening years fell away and I was transported back in time. I remembered lying in my nursery. There was a lot of green, I thought - and Vanne said yes, green curtains and green linoleum. And I remember watching a big blue dragonfly which had come in through the window. I protested when Nanny chased it out, but she said it might sting me, and that it had a sting as long as it's "tail" (meaning, of course, it's abdomen). That is a long sting! No wonder I was scared when a dragonfly zoomed around my pram. But being afraid of something did not mean I wanted it killed. If I close my eyes I can see, with almost unbearable clarity, the glorious shimmering and still quivering wings, the blue "tail" gleaming in the sunlight, the head crushed on the sidewalk. Because of me it had died, perhaps in pain. I screamed in helpless outrage. And from a terrible sense of guilt.
Perhaps I have subconsciously lived my whole life trying to assuage that guilt. Perhaps the dragonfly was part of some plan, to bring a message to a little child, all those years ago. If so, all I can say to my God, is: "Message received and understood." I have tried to assuage some of the guilt, we all must feel, for our inhumanity to man and beast alike. And, with the support of all people of compassionate and loving heart, I shall go on trying until the end. And the end ... will be the beginning?"
~ Jane Goodall