Ruth Nettles put down her knitting to listen to a young Salvadoran refugee who said he had fled his home in El Salvador in 1981 at the age of 16 after four family members had been shot to death. He had come to the United States hoping to find a life free from terror and fear. Instead, he was testifying as a government witness in the trial of the very people who had helped him.
"I ran out of the courtroom and went to the bathroom and just cried," Ruth says of the experience.
It was such compassion and heartfelt emotion that brought Ruth, 60, and her 63-year-old husband, Kenneth, to the sanctuary trial, and kept them there. Last December, while passing through Tucson on a vacation from their Florida home--pulling their Airstream trailer behind a white Suburban--they stopped in the federal courthouse to see a bit of the sanctuary trial they had heard so much about. After their second morning in the courtroom, they decided to put their vacation on hold and stay until the end of the trial.
Kenneth Nettles is a Southern Baptist preacher who retired from the Air Force with the rank of major after 20 years as a chaplain. His tour of duty as the chaplain for a bomb squad and at an evacuation hospital, where he saw the mutilated bodies of young men, made Nettles begin to question the role of his government. Years later he began to read about Central America and U.S. involvement there. He had seen it all before. "I felt that if the U.S. persisted, it would be another Vietnam debacle."