Group Sends a Valentine to President Bush Asking for an Afghan Victims Fund
NEW YORK— Family members of people killed on September 11 gathered in New York today to announce the founding of a new organization, September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows. The founding members, including family of those killed at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the flight 93 crash in Pennsylvania, announced plans to work together to promote effective, non-violent ways to counter terrorism and to advocate for an open discussion about peaceful and just responses to the September 11 tragedies that took the lives of their loved ones.
“We chose Valentine’s day to launch Peaceful Tomorrows because our families have been comforted by the love, compassion and sympathy of people all over the world,” said Colleen Kelly who lost her brother William Kelly Jr. at the World Trade Center. “It is this spirit of healing and understanding that we want to bring to the world in memory of our lost loved ones.”
Members of the organization include a delegation of family members who recently returned from a trip to Afghanistan to highlight the plight of those innocent families affected by the US bombing campaign, family members who led a walk for healing and peace from the Pentagon to the World Trade Center in November, as well as other families who have spoken with concern about the US response to the September 11 tragedies.
Peaceful Tomorrows members have asked that violent responses to the September 11 tragedies, such as the US bombing campaign in Afghanistan, not be done in their names and the names of their loved ones. Members say they were concerned about the lack of discussion about options to respond to the events of September 11.
“We believe that the American people have been denied a dialogue on appropriate responses to the events of September 11,” said David Potorti, East Coast Co-Director of Peaceful Tomorrows, who lost his brother at the World Trade Center. “Our single-minded rush to war has been made without thoughtful consideration of long-term consequences for our safety, security, and freedom. We will use our voices to promote a discussion about better solutions, ones based on justice, not vengeance.”
One of the first projects the group is undertaking is the Afghan Sister Families Campaign to help families in Afghanistan suffering from the effects of the US military campaign. Kelly Campbell, sister-in-law of Craig Amundson who died in the Pentagon, and West coast co-director of the group was one of those who made the trip to Afghanistan. She explains: “We met many Afghan families who lost loved ones due to the US bombing because they happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, just like our loved ones were on September 11. These families are suffering just as we are yet many of them are also struggling to feed their children, let alone rebuild their homes. Helping these innocent victims of our government’s action is simply the right thing to do.”
The group is asking the US government to conduct a study of civilian casualties in Afghanistan, and to provide compensation to affected families.
“We are delivering a valentine to President Bush today, asking him to help us set up a fund for the innocent Afghan victims, “said Phyllis Rodriguez, who lost her son Greg Rodriguez at the World Trade Center, as she held up a letter signed by Peaceful Tomorrows members asking for a meeting with President Bush to discuss an Afghan victims fund. “By helping others who are suffering from the effects of violence and war, we honor the memory of our lost loved ones in a positive way.”
Peaceful Tomorrows members will speak at public events, join with like-minded organizations working for peace and justice and endorse policies to promote peace and understanding throughout the world. The group invites other families and friends of those lost on September 11 and supporters of their message to join Peaceful Tomorrows. To learn more, visit on the web at http://www.peacefultomorrows.org.
Thursday February 14th, 2001
Dear President Bush,
As close family members of those who were killed on September 11, we know what it is like to lose loved ones at the hand of violence. Although we continue to grieve, our pain has been eased by the outpouring of love, compassion and generosity our families have received from our government, fellow Americans, and people all over the world. We are writing to you out of concern that there are innocent families in Afghanistan who were affected by the US military campaign and who are not receiving the attention offered to our families although their need is great.
We would like to extend the spirit of compassion and understanding to those families of Afghanistan. We believe that this is an important way that we can illustrate to the people of Afghanistan and the people of the world that Americans are a caring and generous people. We are eager to help in the fight against terrorism by promoting this spirit of compassion and understanding.
Several of us have recently traveled to Afghanistan and met with Afghan families that were accidentally affected by the US military campaign. We talked with widows who were forced to send their children to beg, families who could not afford to rebuild their homes destroyed by US bombs, children who lost limbs to cluster bombs, and visited children so traumatized by the bombing of their neighborhoods that they had stopped talking. The families we met with were grateful for the US help in overthrowing the Taliban, know that the US did not intend to harm them, and believe that the United States is their friend. Many of these families also believe that the US will provide some compensation to help them to rebuild their homes, get the medical care they need and enable them to contribute to the revitalization of a democratic Afghanistan. We would like to turn that belief into a reality.
A number of us have met with congress people about setting up an Afghan victims fund to determine the extent of civilian deaths and harm from the US military campaign and to provide relief to those innocent families affected. We are happy to report that we received widespread support for this idea and that many congress people advised us to speak directly with you about setting up this fund.
We are requesting a meeting with you to discuss the Afghan Victims Fund. We believe that such a fund is a way that we can honor our lost loved ones by promoting goodwill and understanding throughout the world. We are enthusiastic about working with you on this significant step towards a peaceful and terror-free world.
September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows