My brother, Donald Freeman Greene, was among the passengers aboard United Flight 93 that crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania after passengers retook control of the flight. Don was a licensed pilot and engineer, who would have known immediately that the plane had been redirected from its destination and he would have been a great aide in flying the plane if it had been possible to do so. I am extremely proud of my brother. He was a kind, intelligent, strong, caring man. He was a hero to those of us in his family long before 9/11 in the way he lovingly took care of his children, wife, and the rest of his family. He spent his life as an engineer and Vice President of a company which promotes flight safety. He sat on the Board of the Corporate Angels Network (CAN), which flew cancer patients safely, free from infection risks, for free to treatment across the country using volunteered corporate flights. When I heard of his death I was in absolute shock. A black hole had opened in our family and the world had lost a man who could be an enemy to none and an asset to all.
At first all my thoughts went to supporting Don’s and my family (my son had just turned six) get through the tragedy. The strength shown by my family, especially Don’s children and wife, gave me strength. In the aftermath of the attacks, I found it unbearably painful to listen to news reports replaying the devastating footage. When a Fox News analyst cornered a 9/11 family member and tried to reassure her “not to worry, America would fight back” the woman expressed my sentiments in replying, “Our family would not be comforted by revenge, we do not want this to happen to any other family, anywhere.” Seeing that others also wanted to prevent more harm, rather than strike back, gave me some comfort and made me realize I must add my voice. I immediately wrote a letter to the editor of the Boston Globe, published September 22, 2001, urging our country to remain strong in our dedication to compassion, as was demonstrated by Americans and others around the world following 9/11, as a counter to terrorism. My sister Bonnie was part of the swell of people who immediately responded by providing what assistance they could. She arranged for CAN to fly blood donations from other states to the ground zero site. Uniting to support one another across the full diversity of America was an important aftermath of 9/11 from which I continue to draw strength. My focus then turned to how the world could possibly become more secure for our children, and those around the world. The violence of 9/11 seemed part of a growing intensity of violent incidents—terror, war, and genocide—across the world that shatter lives and ultimately endanger humankind.
I joined Peaceful tomorrows after realizing that the evidence was irrefutable that the wars launched in Iraq and Afghanistan were fueling, not stemming terrorism and creating unimaginable civilian casualties that dwarfed our own terrible losses on September 11th.
Helping organize and participate in the 2006 formation of the International Network for Peace was a privilege. The gathering, held in Garrison, New York, would have seemed a place of unbearable pain and grief with representatives from genocides in Rwanda and the Sudan; violent oppression in South Africa; parents who lost children in the ceaseless conflict between Israel and Palestine; families of the school hostage killings in Beslan, Russia, the Madrid train bombing and Indonesian terror attacks; survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear weapons, among others. Yet the retreat was a place of such close human connection, beautiful stories of loved ones whose spirit of compassion lives on, and commonality of purpose towards pouring our grief into actions towards peace. It was a joyous event. We were so relieved to learn we all still had hope living within and we were all strengthened by our unity.
As a member of Peaceful Tomorrows, I have had other opportunities to connect with those from across the world and in my own backyard. I was part of an interfaith ceremony launching the World March for Peace and Nonviolence, in which marchers starting in New Zealand traveled the world connecting with tens of thousands of supporters across each continent. Closer to home, my son Ari and I spoke to the Groton, MA middle school youth of the “Dreamers and Bookmakers Club” which is creating the world’s largest book. Ari and I added a letter to the book, which is titled Pages for Peace, joining letters submitted by Nobel laureates to students from across the globe on how we can live in peace. The Club has developed close ties with the injured first responders from New York City whom have written letters for the book, been honored by the town, and participated in the 2009 commemoration in Groton on 9/11. I’ve had the honor of connecting these Groton youth with members of the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers. These Afghan youth, who have lived their entire lives during periods of war, are starting “Friends without Borders,” with Peaceful Tomorrows among their advisors, in the hope of connecting all people so that we know one another, rather than launch faceless attacks on those we perceive as enemies.
Additional Peaceful Tomorrows activities were to create materials for members and supporters to take local action, including how to host showings on the Iraqi Nonviolence Network called
LaOnf and working on peace issues in my local community of Cambridge, MA. More recently I have been engaged in Peaceful Tomorrows campaigns to protect the rule of law to counter use of 9/11 as an excuse to undermine the principles of, and dedication to, due process, religious freedom, human rights, and balance of government that comprise the true strength of America.
It is the interconnections that are being made among people, even those formerly perceived as enemies, which offers me the greatest hope. A film I greatly recommend is “Encounter Point” a documentary of how Israeli and Palestinian families who lost children have come together (including a Palestinian Mayor and Israeli General who both lost daughters in the conflict; where once they would have seen one another as enemies they now are very close friends and fellow advocates for reconciliation). As global citizens we need to establish ties and recognize the dignity and rights of all people across national, religious, and any other boundary— going around those who, whether through profit or conviction, may seek to divide us.