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Unabomber's brother, victim forge unique friendship

  • Story Highlights
  • "Unabomber" victim Gary Wright forgives Kaczynski's brother, befriends him
  • When the two first spoke, Wright told David Kaczynski "it's not your fault"
  • Both men now conduct speaking engagements about reconciliation
  • David Kaczynski: "This friendship is for life"
  • Next Article in Crime »
By Ed Lavandera
CNN correspondent
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MIAMI, Florida (CNN) -- If Gary Wright wanted nothing to do with anyone with the last name of Kaczynski, few would blame him. Even David Kaczynski would understand.

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Gary Wright, left, and David Kaczynski have forged a unique relationship over the last decade.

After all, it was Kaczynski's brother, Ted, who tried to kill Wright with a bomb outside his Utah office in 1987. The blast sent him flying through the air, and more than 200 pieces of shrapnel tore into his body, some shards severing nerves in his left arm.

But David Kaczynski and Wright have forged the type of bond that has taken them canoeing in the Adirondacks together and touring the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. They also travel the nation for speaking engagements about pain and reconciliation.

"He helped me see that I could reconnect," Kaczynski said. "There was hope that things would get better and not worse. Gary was, in some sense, my psychological lifeline through this terrible ordeal." Video Watch: "I see Gary as my brother" »

Kaczynski recalls the moment just a few days before Thanksgiving in 1996 when he finally called Wright.

He took a deep breath before dialing the phone number. The answering machine picked up. "Hello, you've reached the Wright house at the wrong time, please leave a message."

Kaczynski left a voice mail telling Wright that he was Ted Kaczynski's brother and that he would call back in a few days.

It was David Kaczynski who turned in his own brother to federal authorities that year as a suspect in the "Unabomber" attacks.

Ted Kaczynski had just been arrested for carrying out a nearly 20-year bombing crusade against technology. He killed three people with his homemade bombs and wounded more than 20 others.

Wright was the Unabomber's 11th victim. He was severely wounded outside his computer company in 1987, when he bent down to pick up a piece of lumber in the parking lot. It turned out to be a bomb planted by Ted Kaczynski.

"For some reason, I thought someone had come around the corner of the building and shot me with a shotgun," Wright said.

Unlikely Friendship
CNN's "American Morning" explores the unique relationship between the "Unabomber's" brother and a victim.
Monday, 6 a.m. ET

When Kaczynski and Wright finally spoke by phone, Kaczynski offered his apologies and then braced himself for Wright to lash out in anger.

"It's not your fault," Wright recalls telling Kaczynski. "You really don't have to carry that [burden]."

An intense feeling of relief overwhelmed Kaczynski.

He had written letters to every victim's family. Only a few responded. And those who did had not offered Wright's warmth and compassion.

The two men didn't know it at the time, but it was the beginning of their unlikely friendship.

Kaczynski and Wright recently detailed the evolution of their relationship for CNN during a speaking appearance in Miami.

"I have learned things that no other victim of these set of crimes will ever know, and it's because of that relationship," Wright said. "There's more knowing you have a good family that raised this person [Ted] and that one person inside the family doesn't define the whole family."

They say that after their initial conversation, the phone calls became more frequent. Their families soon met. In fact, Wright traveled to New York and met David Kaczynski's mother and sat down in her living room, thumbing through family photo albums, looking at the childhood pictures and hearing stories of the boy who would become the Unabomber, the very man who tried to kill him.

"I've been able to see things, see photos that were outside of the norm," Wright said. "See a family that was a family unit before something went wrong."

In 1999, Wright and Kaczynski started traveling the country together telling their story. Thousands of miles on the road have developed a brotherhood born of tragedy. They admit their relationship is unique.

"There is a lot of pain for me with the word 'brother,' a lot of emotion," Kaczynski said. "But I see Gary as my brother."

Wright added, "I don't take that lightly, either. I don't use that word, 'brother,' lightly."

Kaczynski says Wright has not replaced Ted as his older brother, but Wright has clearly filled in. Kaczynski says he doesn't know what his brother would think of the friendship. Video Watch: David Kaczynski once asked, "Mom, what's wrong with Teddy?" »

Ted Kaczynski has not spoken to his family since April 3, 1996, the day he was arrested. He's serving a life sentence at the "supermax" federal penitentiary in Florence, Colorado.

David writes him letters on his birthday and holidays. Their mother writes Ted every month, he said. But a return letter has never arrived.

Kaczynski and Wright see each other only a few times a year, typically when they give a speaking engagement. Kaczynski lives in New York; Wright still lives in Utah where he works as a technical sales engineer in the biopharmaceutical and medical device industries.

But both men say that dealing with the aftermath of the Unabomber tragedy would have been a much lonelier road without this newfound brotherhood.

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"I liken it to like World War II vets. They went through something so traumatic that they're bonded for life," Wright said.

Kaczynski added, "I know that this friendship is for life. We'll be there for each other for as long as we're alive."

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