One Year Later
September Eleventh Family Members for Peaceful Tomorrows, USA
September 10, 2002
The past is prophetic in that it asserts loudly that wars are poor chisels for carving out peaceful tomorrows. One day we must come to see that peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal. We must pursue peaceful ends through peaceful means. How much longer must we play at deadly war games before we heed the plaintive pleas of the unnumbered dead and maimed of past wars?
Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
For the members of Peaceful Tomorrows, September 11, 2001 was a day of unimaginable personal loss. Each of us lost a family member at the World Trade Center, at the Pentagon, or in the crash of Flight 93 near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Losing loved ones to these extreme acts of violence has affected us deeply. It is something from which we will never recover, not in one year, not in a lifetime.
But in the days, weeks and months following that terrible day of loss, we have also received incredible gifts. We gained each other—because we spoke out publicly about our opposition to war and violence as a response to our personal and national tragedies. We gained the love and compassion of new friends all over the United States and all over the world. And we gained the knowledge that there are thousands of Americans and millions around the globe who share our view that war is not the answer to the crimes of September 11.
The outpouring of support, compassion and generosity our families have received has gone a long way toward filling the holes that were left in our hearts on that day, and we thank you. We would not be here today without your support.
We have also gained critics, and their criticism has given us another gift. It has made us consider what it means to be an American citizen. It has made us aware of our responsibilities. And it has made us realize that now, more than ever, the battle to defend our freedoms begins at home. We are all Americans. And if we cannot support each other, especially in our differences, then we have already lost this battle.
We have also come to recognize our kinship with other innocent victims of terrorism and war, a kinship that goes beyond our own borders. Among those who have reached out to us with sympathy are people who lost their own loved ones to violence throughout the world: people from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Israel and the Palestinian territories, Afghanistan, Iran, Colombia, Ireland, and others who have experienced horrific losses. They have welcomed us into their global family—and we treasure their support.
For us, September 11 was a day when the walls came down. It was a day when we realized that there were no barricades high enough, no bombs big enough, and no intelligence sophisticated enough to prolong the illusion of American invulnerability.
Since that day, it has become clear to us that America must fully participate in the global community: by honoring international treaties, endorsing and participating in the international criminal court, following the United Nations charter and agreeing in word and action to the precepts of international law. This is vital, if peace and justice are to prevail everywhere on earth, including in our own country.
The deepened awareness that America is an integral part of a shared globe is central to Peaceful Tomorrows’ mission. America no longer has the option of acting unilaterally. We live in the 21st century, in an age when the barriers to trade and to the exchange of goods, services, ideas and people are disappearing. This reality brings with it the urgent need for new ways of dealing with the rest of the world. We must move beyond seeking revenge and instead seek accountability for actions that foster violence. We must conquer injustice by creating a just world. We—and our children and grandchildren—will live in a connected world. We can no longer pretend to live outside of it.
But a year after September 11, 2001, we wonder how our loved ones lost on that day would feel about what has been done in their names. What would they think of our rush to military action? What would they think of the diminishing of our personal freedoms and civil liberties? And what would they think about the results of our choices?
More than 40 American service people have died in the military campaign in Afghanistan. Yet the few successful apprehensions of known Al-Qaeda members have been made by other nations, through police actions, intelligence and diplomatic channels.
In Afghanistan, thousands of innocent civilians have been affected by the bombing, and the lives of millions remain in danger from the ongoing hunger and poverty resulting from two decades of war, exacerbated by our recent military operations. Members of Peaceful Tomorrows have visited innocent Afghan families who lost loved ones in the U.S. bombing. We have campaigned for assistance to these families, believing that such assistance represents the highest ideals of America and serves to bolster our support in the region.
Still, the interim government of Kabul remains unstable, and the progress made for women in Afghanistan remains uncertain. In the June 16, 2002 issue of The New York Times, officials of the FBI and CIA acknowledged that the bombing of Afghanistan did not make America safer, and may have in fact complicated antiterrorism efforts by dispersing Al-Qaeda elements to other countries.
The contemplated invasion of Iraq—a nation that has no proven links to the events of September 11—in the name of the "war on terrorism" means that more American service people and more civilians would die, with unforeseen effects on our security, our economy, our ability to address the root causes of terrorism, and our relationship with other nations.
At home, the consequences of our singular reliance on a military response to the tragedies of 9-11 have been far-reaching. Our nation has yet to begin a meaningful, independent investigation of how and why the September 11 attacks occurred, information that is crucial for protecting us from similar attacks in the future. Our domestic problems—unemployment, inadequate health care, poor schools, and hunger—continue to grow, as does our military budget.
The war on terrorism does not put reality on hold. It is time to acknowledge that pursuing a military response in the absence of pursuing other options is an extravagantly expensive, wasteful and limited means of action. The real work begins when the bombs stop dropping.
Terrorism is portrayed as our greatest, newest problem. But it is also a symptom rooted in other, more familiar problems: Extremism. Militarism. Poverty. Racism. Ignorance. Inequality. Hatred. Hopelessness. Rage. We haven’t done enough to address them. And until we do, they will continue to announce their presence through violence and terrorism, in an increasingly desperate attempt to bring about change.
We believe it is time to stop dropping bombs and to start paying attention. To start asking difficult questions. To start listening to a multitude of voices. And to start exploring—and using—effective alternatives to war.
Today, members of Peaceful Tomorrows fear that our country is heading in the wrong direction. But we hope that through vigorous dialogue and a willingness to question and critique our actions we can begin to right our course. And we must—in the names of our lost loved ones, in the names of our families, and in the names of yours. No other family, anywhere on earth, should have to experience the pain and loss we experienced on September 11.
Our critics tell us that America is great because it is powerful. We think America is powerful because it is great. We believe America is great because of its freedoms, its values, its Constitution, and its diversity of opinion. We believe America possesses not only military strength, but a host of other strengths: legal strength, moral strength, spiritual and intellectual strength. We believe that all of these strengths must be utilized. And we believe that in a democracy, we all serve, not just our men and women in uniform.
On September 11, 2002, we invite our fellow citizens to affirm their love of country, to honor those who were lost on this day one year ago, and to mourn the loss of life to violence throughout the world. We ask that the commemoration of September 11 serve as a call for peace and healing, not for more war and violence. And we ask you to bring your own unique skills and talents to bear in a critical national dialogue.
Only by including all of our voices will we find a path to justice. And only through justice will we find peace: peace for ourselves and for all Americans, grieving the loss of innocent family members, friends and co-workers on September 11. Peace for Afghan families, grieving the loss of loved ones in the U.S.-led bombing campaign and in the preceding 23 years of war.
And, peace for our counterparts around the world—the other families who have experienced violence. We recognize them as our brothers and sisters, our mothers and fathers, our children and our grandchildren. If the September 11 deaths of nearly 3,000 Americans representing 80 nationalities teach us anything, it is that we are connected. Our grief is their grief. Our world is their world. And our destiny is their destiny.
Peaceful Tomorrows is an advocacy organization founded by family members of September Eleventh victims. Its mission is to seek effective nonviolent responses to terrorism and to identify a commonality with all people similarly affected by violence throughout the world.
From Peaceful Tomorrows, September 10, 2002.