Our grief is not a cry for war

Book review

September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows: Turning Our Grief into Action for Peace, By David Potorti with Peaceful Tomorrows, RDV Books, 246 pp., softcover, $14.95

Of all those who suffered from the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, none has stronger grounds to advocate revenge than the next-of-kin of the 3,000 people who died.

Yet David Potorti, who lost his brother Jim in the collapse of World Trade Center, speaks in his eloquent book for the many families who have turned their loss into something positive.

Independently, several of the family members realized within days of the attack that George W. Bush was using the dastardly crime to justify his drive toward preemptive and unilateral war on Afghanistan and later on Iraq. Potorti recounts the angry response of several family members. Phyllis and Orlando Rodriguez who lost their son, Greg, in the WTC were interviewed by the New York Daily News in the Sept. 19, 2001, edition.

“I know there is anger. I feel it myself,” Orlando said. “But I don’t want my son used as a pawn to justify the killing of others.”

They wrote a letter to Bush. “It makes us feel that our government is using our son’s memory as a justification to cause suffering for other sons and parents in other lands,” they wrote. “This is not a time for empty gestures to make us feel better. It is not a time to act like bullies.”

Rita Lasar’s younger brother died in the WTC because he would not leave behind a friend who was confined to a wheelchair. She was angered when Bush referred to her brother as a “hero” in a speech calling for war.

“The next thought I had was, my country is going to use my brother’s heroism as a justification to kill people in a place far away from here,” she says. She wrote a letter to The New York Times. (The Times did not print it).

On the eve of the House vote for a resolution authorizing Bush to attack Iraq, Lasar joined scores of Code Pink Women and was arrested at the U.S. Capitol to protest the war.

Potorti explains in the chapters that follow how the individual family members found each other and came together in the September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows. It now unites 80 family members and thousands of supporters. They have become familiar to millions as speakers at peace demonstrations, rallies and marches with their slogan, “Our grief is not a cry for war.”

In many ways, they are the peace movement’s most eloquent voice, along with the anti-war protests of wives and parents of U.S. soldiers serving in occupied Iraq. They speak as no one else can for the people.

Potorti includes in this book the letters, op-ed columns, and speeches by many members of Peaceful Tomorrows. Derrill Bodley, a music professor at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, Calif., lost his daughter Deora in the crash of Flight 93 in Somerset County, Penn. He wrote a song in her memory. “It expressed my longing to know where my daughter was,” Bodley said. “But at the same time, it was an answer, saying that there’s no need to wallow in sorrow … The answer I heard when I finished, and I started crying was, ‘Don’t worry, Dad, I’m alright, its O.K., just do the right thing.’”

Invited to the White House with other Sept. 11 families, Bodley handed George W. Bush a copy of the song, “Steps to Peace.” Then he boldly stepped to a White House piano, sat down and played it. Afterwards, many of the mourners came up and told him, “It really helped a lot for you to do that.”

The book has the qualities of a diary, of chapters yet to be written. This is an unfinished project with people mourning their dead and fighting for the living. Everyone should read it.

Tim Wheeler(greenerpastures21212@yahoo.com)