9/11 families appeal for peace and justice

BOSTON – The families of the 3,000 people who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack made a powerful appeal for peace, justice, and understanding both inside and outside the Democratic National Convention last week.

Haleema Salie’s daughter Rahma, seven months pregnant, died with her husband Michael aboard American Airlines Flight 11 that crashed into the World Trade Center. The still grieving mother was a featured speaker the first night of the convention.

A member of the Democratic Party Platform Committee, she reminded the crowd that she is a Muslim and that people of all races and faiths died in the tragedy. She called on the crowd “not to forget those who died, to give them a human face, to remember September 11 as the day we were one … responsible for each other. It must be the defining moment” and a reminder that “what unites us is stronger than what divides us. We bring our memories but we turn our faces to the future to a new day and a new world.”

Two days earlier, at the Boston Social forum, Sept. 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows launched “Stonewalk.” Stonewalk is a project in which volunteers will pull from the Democratic Convention in Boston to the Republican National Convention in New York a 1-ton granite gravestone dedicated to the 100 million people – 80 percent civilian – who died in wars over the past century. The gravestone’s permanent location is the Peace Abby in Sherbourne, Mass., where it was dedicated several years ago by Vietnam War draft refuser Muhammad Ali.

For its journey to New York, the stone is cradled on the back of a 3,000 pound caisson festooned with the American flag and the UN flag and a banner that reads, “Remembering the Human Cost of Terrorism, Violence, and War.” A long bar reaches out in front with crossbars for 14 volunteers to do the pulling.

“I’m here because I know there are four times as many people who lost family members because of the immoral war in Iraq as died September 11,” said Terry Rockefeller as she leaned into the crossbar. She lost her sister Laura in the terrorist attack on the WTC.

David Potorti, whose brother Jim died in the WTC, told the World, “I have not yet read the 9/11 Commission Report but I know that we are not safer because of our response to September 11. To the extent that the report is a narrative of what happened that day, it is good. But until it takes up why it happened, it is not enough. Why do people want to kill us? I think some September 11 families are in denial. But many others are asking that question. Why? This is about our foreign policy and how we relate to the rest of the world.”

Potorti decried the Bush administration’s war on Iraq and its drive for global domination and a “new American century.” He said, “It’s not the American century. The century, as well as the world, belongs to everyone. We share this planet with a lot of people. I like that quote of John F. Kennedy: ‘Those who make nonviolent evolution impossible, make violent revolution inevitable.’ This is our nonviolent evolution.”

The “stonewalkers” marched north to Copley Square. There the caisson stood beside a churchyard where 907 pairs of boots were arrayed on the grass, symbolizing the number of GIs who have died in Iraq so far.

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