September 4, 2011
Four Families, Four Stories of Loss, Love and Resilience
The 9/11 attacks claimed thousands, and the list only starts with the dead. Left behind were those for whom the years have meant building the unthinkable into every new day (Including Peaceful Tomorrows member Andrea LeBlanc)
Boston Globe, www.boston.com – By Jenna Russell, Globe Staff
His father had died before he was 1, and so he became self-sufficient. He delivered milk, flowers, and telegrams to bolster the household income; he learned to cook. Later, he cooked for Andrea and their children, clipping recipes, recreating dishes he had eaten on his travels. In their new kitchen, the wide island was supposed to keep visitors out of his way, but it didn’t quite work as planned. Instead of staying on their stools at the counter, the guests kept creeping forward, closer to Bob and his easy way, closer to Bob and his warmth.
He was the one who knew why cities grew up where they did, the long-forgotten history behind the lines on the map. After Sept. 11, Andrea longed for his knowledge. “People asked, ‘Why do they hate us so much?’ ’’ she says. “It’s a good question, and it’s a question we would have asked Bob.’’
At first, she withdrew. She didn’t want to talk about it, or take drugs, or see a therapist. She stopped going to her local grocery store, to avoid the tearful questions, the burden of reassuring others that she was OK.
Then, at the end of 2002, she heard about a group called September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, started by a handful of relatives of 9/11 victims to advocate for nonviolence. As soon as she met them, Andrea felt relief; with them, she didn’t have to explain her feelings.
In February 2003, just before the war began inIraq, she attended her first protest march, in Washington,D.C.Since then, she has traveled the world as a peace activist. In 2005, she helped organize a 385-mile peace walk inJapan, where people in their 70s and 80s, survivors of the atomic bombs that fell in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, wept and shared their stories after 60 years of silence. In 2006, she took part in an international conference on nonviolence inNew Yorkwhere participants included a priest who lost both hands to a letter bomb while fighting apartheid and a woman who befriended the IRA bomber who killed her father. The woman, Jo Berry, has become a friend.
“I started to feel like I had a place in a global community,’’ Andrea says. “When you know about all the other 9/11s, it’s harder to get lost in your own grief.’’
Adamantly, she rejects the role of grieving widow. It’s not her grief that is important or unique, she said. “The story is 9/11, and what’s happened since … the erosion of civil liberties, the military spending, the fact that our security has come at the price of our humanity.’’
She testified for the defense at the 2006 sentencing of Zacarias Moussaoui, the convicted 9/11 co-conspirator who received a life sentence instead of the death penalty.
Her goal, she says, is to show her grandchildren they have choices.