Otto with a group before he was detained

I feel I would be remiss if I did not mention the tragic death of Otto Frederick Warmbier. 

He was 21 when he went to North Korea with a tour group in late 2015. And walked straight into a horrific nightmare.

His group was prepared to leave in early 2016 when the
University of Virginia student was detained and convicted of engaging in
anti-state activity. 

His crime? Taking down a propaganda banner from his hotel.

Otto was finally released for “humanitarian reasons” last week in a vegetative state. He died on the afternoon of June 19.

Little else is known. Except that he has been in a coma for most of the time he was held in captivity.  

Otto died due to severe brain damage. Reasons unknown.


  Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.

When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die. 
– Mary Elizabeth Frye

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  1. Ohhh, Brenda, this is a heartbreaking story! I cannot imagine the grief and horrible anguish that the parents and family are going through. Otto was so young. He had no ill intent towards the North Korean's nor their government. Thank you for drawing attention to his tragic story! I am sure that there is so much more to be known about what a wonderful young man he was.

  2. This whole regime in N Korea has no respect for human beings. I'm so devastated for what his parents and family are going through and sad that Otto's life was taken from him by these monsters. If Dennis Rodman considers them his friend, then why doesn't he move there. Personally, I think U.S. Citizens should be banned from going to this forsaken country, now that a person can be killed for taking down a stupid poster.

  3. My 6 and 9 yr old saw this on the news and asked me about it. How do you explain that there are people in this world who do such horrific things with no compassion or regard for another human being. My heart goes out to Otto and his family. He and what has occurred should never be forgotten

  4. Tragic for everyone involved. Even the perpetrators–how do they rationalize such cruelty to another human being? So, so sad for all who knew him and those of us who didn't and especially his family. Sometimes the evil in this world just takes my breath away. It's hard not to feel hatred for those who commit these crimes, but I don't want to contaminate my own mind and heart with hatefulness. I don't want to add to the hatred in the world one little bit. So I guess I can only pray for them that they become aware of the evilness and horror they are spewing into the world and taking into their souls. Perhaps there is more we can do, but I'm not aware of what.

  5. Thank you for posting this Brenda. I reposted it to my facebook. Heartbreaking…beyond comprehension of the inhumanity and WHY our President at the time OBAMA chose not help him!

  6. Thank you Brenda for writing this. We live in Virginia and my daughter is a recent UVA alum. It is so sickening to think what this poor young man went through. He had such promise in his life. We are all in mourning for his family.

  7. Extremely sad! Our hearts hurt for the parents. I'm sorry but Dennis Rodman has probably not said a word because they could throw him in prison for trumped up charges! This is a sick world when politicians would like a shot Congressman to die along with many more!!! 🙁

  8. the whole situation is so tragic. I wonder if Dennis Rodman ( that whole situation seems a bit odd) has said anything on his trips over there visiting his pals as to condemn and find out why this happened since we are not able to get any other information.

    1. Dennis Rodman is looking for a few more minutes of fame. Just using this families terrible situation to try to bring attention to himself. I do not believe from all I've read that he had anything to do with this release. He just happened to have been there. He would feel differently about that country if this happened to him or someone he loved.

  9. his parents.
    I cannot begin to imagine their pain.
    the helplessness of him being so far away.
    and then the joy of him being released
    only to have it end in such shock and sorrow.

  10. Yes, this story is very sad. When I first heard about it I could not help but imagine the terror and pain he must have endured. And then there are his parents and other family members, and how much heartbreak they must be experiencing. My prayers go out to him and his family. He was so young to die. So terrible what we humans do to each other in our certainty that our way is the "right" way and someone else's way is the wrong way.

    1. I did the same. Imagined getting ready to leave only to be grabbed from the group and thrown in jail. The person that ordered this needs to pay. It is simply inhumane.

  11. Brenda,
    The death of this young man has really affected me in ways that I didn't expect. It has struck a cord within my heart about what is just purely humane. It was a horrific slow and painful death at the hands of those who have absolutely no soul or heart whatsoever. There was not enough media coverage on this, and I guess it is, or was, for obvious reasons, but it is a slap in the face of his family and those he left behind to grieve his death. I can't begin to understand or make sense of why this happened. I can't begin to understand the grief his parents and family are going through, the distance that they went through while he was held captive like an animal, over a poster! a poster!!!!!
    I can only try and find comfort in knowing that he is in Heaven with God and finally at Peace. I pray that his family will find peace as well.
    Thanks, Jackie

    1. Me too. As a parent, I just can't imagine what his parents have endured. Otto is finally at peace. They can take comfort from that at least.

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