Since the loss of my dear father on Sept. 11, there have been many situations in which people I met as well as the news media were interested in hearing my story and my opinion — my opinion on invading Afghanistan and Iraq, on terrorism, on life in general and on how someone copes with a loss like this.
But as time passed and my process of healing enabled me to turn my grief into positive actions, my story seemed less interesting to the media and was actually met with some resistance by others.
It felt like it was not OK for me to have healed some of my wounds. It felt like the responses I was getting were telling me that in situations like mine, people are supposed to stay angry, never stop in our pursuit of vengeance and harbor these emotions for the rest of our lives.
It puzzled me that this path of hatred seemed to be considered "normal" to some Americans and that actually working through your emotional distress, and possibly even shedding a tear, is seen as being weak and not well.
I am proud to say that there is a way to honor the life of your passed loved one without sacrificing your well-being and happiness. I’ve discovered that it is very healthy and can change your life for the better to choose a path of healing, to let yourself get emotionally messy when you need to and to not be afraid to cry or reveal your emotions.
Through a lot of tears, and some great support, my heart is alive and stronger than ever. I am not angry, I do not seek vengeance and I am living a joyous fulfilling life, even in the face of the constant reminders of 9/11 and the loss of my Dad.
It seems many stories and many perspectives similar to mine (which are what I would consider "real news") never make it to the eyes and ears of the rest of us. I hope that someday, positive life-affirming stories and perspectives will not have to appear in opinion columns like this, but may actually make headlines around the world.
Imagine if after the sentence of life in prison rather than the death penalty for Zacarias Moussaoui, instead of what we heard and saw, the headlines read, "The Power of Love and Compassion Prevails in Death Penalty Trial — Hearts Are Touched Around the World!" I know from sitting on that witness stand and looking into the eyes of Moussaoui, the jury and the other people in that courtroom, that indeed there was and still is a deeper lesson for all of us in that experience.
So to answer that question for you, I did not testify at this trial to determine the fate of one man. I expressed my voice and my heart because I believe in restorative justice and that killing someone to teach people that killing is wrong is a very poor lesson that even a child would recognize doesn’t make sense.
Acting out of fear and anger with hatred and vengeance does not serve to end the path of terror, but instead propagates terror and continues the destructive cycles of violence and hatred in our world. This is what terrorism wants to achieve.
As a proud American and world citizen, it was important for me to speak my personal triumph over terror and declare through my testimony that terrorism has failed in hijacking my life too.
I believe in the courage and resiliency of Americans to take back our hearts from fear and hatred. Through the healing process after losing my Dad, I realized that terror can only exist and grow if we lose ourselves in hatred and allow blind anger to start making the decisions for us.
I also learned that no matter what circumstance may fall upon us in life, we each have a choice in how we want to respond and continue to live our lives. I found the best choice I could make to counteract this act of terror and to honor the life of my Dad was to dedicate my life to living with an open heart, to embracing understanding and compassion, to living passionately with an appreciation for all things and to living my life well.
My life purpose is to speak out for love and to stand for the awakening of our hearts. With all of my heart, I pray for our continued awakening and that one day we may all return to love.
Antonio Aversano, a Troy resident, testified against the death penalty in the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, who was convicted of conspiracy in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. His father, Louis F. Aversano Jr. of New Jersey, was killed at the World Trade Center – Published as an op-ed by the Albany Times Union with publisher given title – ‘Sparing Moussaoui empowers 9/11 survivors’