Civilian Casualties, Civilian Solutions: Family Members of 9/11 Victims Spearhead Movement Against War and Violence

David Potorti lost his brother, James, at the World Trade Center on September 11th. Shortly after the attacks, David joined with other family members of those killed to form a group that called for peace. As President Bush announced his war on terror, they advocated for non-violence. [includes rush transcript] As we continue our coverage of the fifth anniversary of 9/11, we are joined now by David Potorti. His brother James died at the World Trade Center.

Shortly after the attacks, David joined with other family members of those killed to form a group that called for peace. As President Bush announced his war on terror, they advocated for non-violence.

They called their organization Sept. 11 Families For Peaceful Tomorrows. David Potorti is now the group’s director.

    * David Potorti, he lost his brother James at the World Trade Center on 9/11. He is the director of September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows.


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AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined by David Potorti. His brother James died at the World Trade Center. Shortly after the attacks, David joined with other families, members who had lost their families, to form a group that called for peace. As President Bush announced his war on terror, they advocated for nonviolence and called their group September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows. David Potorti is now the group’s director. We welcome you to Democracy Now!.

DAVID POTORTI: Thank you. Thanks, Amy and Juan.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you go back five years and talk about that day? Where were you? Where was your brother?

DAVID POTORTI: I was living in Cary, North Carolina, which very strangely was, I think, the headquarters of American Airlines, and the first phone call from one of the flight attendants came to their headquarters where I lived. And my story is probably very similar to everybody else’s story. You know, got a call from, I think, my mom, because my sister-in-law had called her. I was sitting on the edge of the couch, turned on the TV and just saw that horrible scene that everybody had seen of the World Trade Center. And I knew that my brother worked on the — you know, one of the upper floors of the North Tower. I didn’t know the exact floor, but it turned out to be the 94th floor, and that was the direct hit by the first plane, which took out about 300 of his fellow employees.

AMY GOODMAN: Where did he work?

DAVID POTORTI: Marsh & McLennan, which is a, you know, multi-national insurance company. So they were — they were just gone, so we didn’t get a phone call from Jim and didn’t really figure out until that Friday that we wouldn’t be hearing from him, so that’s really when our mourning began, just a few days later. And after that, because I was already working for a newspaper and doing commentaries occasionally for Pacifica, I had this sort of platform to talk about my opposition to our government’s response, because from the very beginning, I just knew, looking at my parents, who are still alive, and seeing how they were suffering from this, I said, "I don’t want anybody else to have to go through this. And how can we use a smart response, a sensible response that does not result in the deaths of other innocent people? And obviously, we’ve got to get the people that did this in some way, but let’s be smart about it."

And as a result of putting things out on the internet, some other families got in touch with me. Also heard from Kathy Kelly, who you know from Voices in the Wilderness, and she was organizing a peace walk from the Pentagon to the World Trade Center in November of 2001. And a bunch of us, maybe about five of us, did this symbolic peace walk, and you had us on when we arrived in New York, November of 2001, and talked about it.

AMY GOODMAN: I remember that moment. You were there with Amber Amundson, right?

DAVID POTORTI: Right, right.

AMY GOODMAN: Who had lost her husband.

DAVID POTORTI: At the Pentagon.

AMY GOODMAN: At the Pentagon, and I remember this famous picture in the New York Times of all of you at Union Square, and Amber was wrapped in the American flag. And I can’t remember exactly what the caption on the picture was, but it made it look like it fit — that you were all part of a group that were calling for some kind of — or supporting the U.S. government in supporting for an attack.

DAVID POTORTI: Well, she was a grieving widow, and I was a grieving brother, and that’s pretty much it. And we just did a walk from, you know — I don’t even know if they mentioned the walk. But it was just like, here are some grieving people standing in Union Square Park and we were all carrying —

AMY GOODMAN: Wrapped in the American flag.

DAVID POTORTI: Wrapped in the American flag, and we were all carrying signs that say, "No War in Afghanistan!" You know, "Stop the Bombing!" And they just cropped all of them out, so it was just the two of us, you know, grieving. And that was our first experience of the media covering us, but not really covering us. You know, they covered us, but they didn’t say the context of why we had arrived there, so that gave us a taste of what was in store.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And as you began to bring together your group, obviously there were several organizations that developed out of the families of the victims of the attacks. What was the reaction or interaction that you had with some of the other families that were grieving, as well, over the positions that you took?

DAVID POTORTI: Well, all the 9/11 groups, we support all of them, and they all have their particular niche. Some of them are about compensation for, you know, families of firefighters, redevelopment of Ground Zero, what’s going to go there. We are really the only ones that are involved in kind of the political end of it, talking about U.S. foreign policy and how we can change that and make that better, and so we kind of all coexist, you know. We support each other’s work. We certainly support the work of all the other families. We’ve never really told anybody that they don’t have a right to respond the way that they want to, so we’re happy to allow people to respond however they want.

AMY GOODMAN: How much media attention do you get when you go from description, describing your loved ones lost at the World Trade Center or the Pentagon, to prescription, what should happen?

DAVID POTORTI: Well, most of the media we get is from overseas, strangely enough. Everyone’s fascinated with us. Even people in China have written about us as being, you know, "Look, this is what Americans do. This is part of the American character, you know. They’re marching." But we find in the United States, they

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