What has happened to Otto Warmbier is nothing short of tragic.
Otto, a 22-year-old University of Virginia student, lost his life at such a young age for a crime as inconsequential as tearing down a poster. But that’s just how things are in the DPRK, and unfortunately, that’s where Otto chose to go.
Warmbier returned to the United States last week after 17 months in prison in North Korea, and since his return to the United States, more and more information about his treatment and injuries have come out. Similarly, though, are tidbits about who he was as a person before all this chaos cost him his life.
Video has surfaced from way back in 2013 when Warmbier was graduating high school. As the class salutatorian at Wyoming High School, Warmbier delivered a speech to a classmate, displaying natural enthusiasm and kindness.
In a pleasant graduation day outside Cincinnati four years ago, Otto Warmbier bade farewell to the Wyoming High School class of 2013. The class salutatorian, in what was his customary good cheer, delivered a memorable speech, a message of inspiration and friendship. It would be the last time many of his classmates heard his voice and saw him speak.
Warmbier was detained during a tour of North Korea last year for trying to steal a propaganda poster, the government said, and during his imprisonment he somehow slipped into a persistent vegetative state.
He suffered significant brain damage that ultimately led to his death Monday in Cincinnati, barely a week after he was released and flown home.
Given what happened to Warmbier, his words carry even more haunting weight. It’s evident from the moment he begins to speak that this is just a regular, kind kid, who wouldn’t wish harm upon anyone in the world.
Hopefully, Warmbier’s unfortunate passing serves as a catalyst for the release of the three other American prisoners in the DPRK, as well as moves us closer to solving this North Korea issue once and for all.
Rest in peace, Otto.