~ A letter from Bix (written several days before beginning “diesel therapy” to Tennessee)



photo by Leonard Eiger

After spending the first 2 1/2 weeks of his prison sentence for the Disarm Now Plowshares action at the SeaTac Federal Correction Facility, Jesuit priest Bill “Bix” Bichsel was taken out of his cell on April 18.  He is being transported several thousand miles across the U.S. to Tennessee, where he is scheduled to join 12 others for a May 9 trial stemming from their July 5, 2010 civil resistance action at the Y-12 nuclear weapons complex in Oak Ridge.  (More about the action here.)

Bix’s health is fragile, and being transported by the Bureau of Prisons can make for a long and difficult journey, during which it is difficult to receive needed medications.  Please keep him in your thoughts and prayers.

April 14, 2011
Day 16 at SeaTac Federal Detention

By Bill Bichsel, S.J.

I will pursue my hope to do some writing while in lock-up. I feel the
spirit present with me in lock-up and feel confirmed by the spirit
that here is where I should be.

As I slowly shuffle around the common area, I thank God for being here
and for the peace I experience. I am not anxious or overly concerned
by anything, though I do feel some tugs to answer my letters and to
get my calling and visitor lists into the computer.

I have had generous help from different inmates such as: Reno, Bo,
Hugo, Ronnie, etc. to help me with the computer. They have been most
obliging. The kindness and welcoming by the inmates – especially the
Mexican brothers and some of the Black brothers has been great. They
make sure that we have what is necessary. They give easily. Most of
the guys on this 6b inmate unit have heard of our Bangor action and
are supportive. A very touching incident, that highlights our
treatment by the inmates, happened on our second day here when there
was a shake down. All the inmates had to file into the big, very cold,
exercise room while the guards went through our cells looking for
contraband. While I was standing there shivering one of the Mexican
inmates came up and put his jacket around my shoulders. I was touched
by his compassion.

I’m very lucky to have Steve Kelly, S.J. as my cell mate. Ordinarily,
he would go into the Special Housing Unit (the hole) upon entering
into BOP custody because of his non-cooperation with BOP regulations
and restrictions; however, out of consideration for me, he has elected
to stay in the general population with its regulations in order to be
a companion to me – as long as he can. He shares his humor,
consideration, helping hand, and patience with an 82 yr. old that has
things wrong with him from head to toe, moves slowly, tires easily,
and takes a œ ton of pills to prolong breath and life. Steve has been
great. We are somewhat the odd couple. Guess which one is neat and

I’m blessed by the peace and quiet spirit inside. I’m not concerned
about trying to be more than I am with the other inmates. I’m trying
to let them see – and not hide or disguise – my lack of knowledge of
so many things. I want to be as I have been formed by time and the
community of people about me at different stages and positions in my
life. Like I said: I’m lucky to be here.

I know I’m getting weaker – it takes all my strength and breath to
make my bunk. I have to sit down a few times in the process. It takes
all I have now to do one or two slow shuffles around the common area.
I don’t feel panicked or upset about my condition. I know I can keel
over at any time; but I feel very much at peace with this condition
and understand and accept it – thankfully – as part of my journey.

I don’t have a regular prayer time now – but pray and try to be alert,
i.e. at rest in the presence of God. I ask God to lead me as God sees
fit. There is no anxiousness or compulsiveness or resolve to preach or
hold prayer sessions or do any “religious actions” – just be and
shuffle around. There are four TVs I avoid with their steady diet of
sex and violence.

I am so thankful to feel at peace with my life. It’s a gift from God
and I do feel God working in – with me. I could be wrong – but this is
what I experience.

The action we did was beyond us – as the carrying out of other
Plowshare actions have been. I do feel our prison stay is part of the
same journey.