They have lost brothers, husbands, daughters, sons. Yet they are asking that vengeance not be waged in their loved ones' names. About 20 family members of victims have joined together as “September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows” to urge alternatives to war and to bring aid to families of those killed in the US bombing of Afghanistan.
The group was officially launched on Valentine's Day with a call on President Bush to establish a fund for Afghans affected by the US war. Even before the formal launch, members of the group had circulated anti-war essays on the internet and in newspapers and, in November, participated in a walk from Washington to New York for healing and peace. In January, members traveled to Afghanistan to meet with family members of Afghans killed by US bombs (see YES! issue #21). They have asked to meet with the president, but so far have had no response. Still, this group is hard to ignore.
“So much of this [war] is being done in our names,” explains Kelly Campbell, co-director of Peaceful Tomorrows, whose partner's brother, Craig Amundson, died in the Pentagon. After his death, the Amundsons and their friends began talking about their concern over the use of violence to avenge the September 11 attacks. Campbell asked herself, “How can we advocate for something that leaves a positive legacy for our loved ones?”
“It's our hope that the attacks mark the end of that cycle of violence. Let's let Craig's death be the end of this way of thinking,” Campbell says.
Campbell feels that many Americans who question the US government's response to the September 11 attacks have been afraid to speak out. She hopes that hearing family members of victims speak out will make it easier for other Americans to publicly question the war.
Co-director David Potorti,whose brother Jim died in One World Trade Center, says that the group has been inundated by e-mails and speaking invitations. While they have received media coverage, much of it has ignored the group's opposition to the war. The New York Times, for example, ran a photo of Peaceful Tomorrows members, but cropped out the signs expressing war opposition.
In late March, Potorti received notification that DNA testing had identified his brother's remains. This news gives fresh urgency to his commitment to the group. “I need the support of other people in this group. I need the people who e-mail us in support, who literally say you give me reason to get up in the morning.”
Most of the responses have been supportive, he says, but a few are hostile. “What they say to us is, ‘Are you trying to get us all killed?'” He laughs in disbelief. “It's an odd world where the people who are waging peace are accused of trying to get us killed, not the people who are targeting nuclear weapons at other nations.”
Campbell thinks the group's work to draw attention to Afghan suffering helps make the US safer from terrorism, by showing that Americans care about the plight of people throughout the world. The group is organizing resistance to President Bush's recent decision to broaden US targeting of nuclear weapons, Potorti says. The group is also pressing for the US to sign on to the International Criminal Court, so that those responsible for atrocities like the September 11 attacks can be brought to justice. Peaceful Tomorrows also plans to organize support for Rep. Dennis Kucinich's proposal for a federal Department of Peace (see interview with Rep. Kucinich on page 44).
For information on Peaceful Tomorrows, visit .