My sister, Laura, was a graduate of the musical theatre department at Syracuse University. Laura had a beautiful, clear, soprano voice and a warm, wonderful laugh. After she finished college, Laura moved to Manhattan to make her living in the theatre. Sometimes she succeeded in getting the jobs she dreamed of – performing off-Broadway, touring with national theatre companies, directing and producing new plays. Other times she filled in with odd jobs to pay her bills and her rent.
On September 11, 2001, Laura left her upper-West Side Manhattan apartment at about 6 a.m. to report for a two-day job on the 106th floor of the World Trade Center, helping to run a conference on risk assessment and information technology. When the job was over, Laura was planning to come to Massachusetts and visit us. But, of course, we never saw her again.
I joined September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows in May of 2002, because it offered me the most meaningful way to honor Laura’s life and try to insure that other families throughout the world do not experience the tragic and violent deaths of their innocent relatives. In January of 2003, I traveled to Iraq as part of a citizen-to-citizen delegation to oppose U.S. military action against that nation and in August of 2003 I represented Peaceful Tomorrows at the World Conference against Atomic & Hydrogen Bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In 2004, I was able to discuss our work at the Initiatives of Changes conference in Caux, Switzerland and to represent our group at a women’s peace conference in Amman, Jordan. In 2007, I again represented Peaceful Tomorrows at the international meeting of the Nonviolent Peaceforce in Nairobi, Kenya where I learned about the extraordinary work of La’Onf, a network of nonviolence and human rights activists in Iraq. I have since met many times with members of La’Onf, and I was profoundly honored to be invited to attend the first national meeting of the organization in Erbil, Iraq in August of 2008 and their Nonviolence Forum in November of 2009.
Whenever I give a speech for Peaceful Tomorrows or go to a peace vigil or attend a demonstration against war, I hold Laura in my heart. And I think of how much she loved New York City and the rich diversity of its people, its arts and culture. My connections with members of Peaceful Tomorrows and with the inspiring peace and nonviolence activists from around the world have taught me that the way to peace is long but it is a path worth walking.