by Terry Rockefeller
Monday May 19, 2003
This is a Mothers Day celebration so I think it only fitting that I begin by thanking the person who made me a mother. Bill has been supportive of all my work and never more so than since September 11, 2001. But it was Bill who, just after we were married suggested we become active members of Amnesty International. I thank him especially for that. The members of Amnesty International Group 56 in Lexington, some of whom are here today, and the work of AI internationally and here in the US opposing the death penalty have been a true moral compass for me over the years and especially in these challenging times.
Our daughter Hannah — and thank you for helping to introduce me! — has also been a great support. Hannah has accompanied me on peace marches, and she will travel with me to Hiroshima and Nagasaki this August to commemorate the bombings of those two cities. I can’t imagine a better travelling companion.
I wish our older daughter Logan were here. She’s finishing exams for her sophomore year at UC Berkeley. Logan (and her boyfriend whose mother is also here today) have been volunteering this year for September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows.
So I want to stress that being a mother is one of the things that makes me most optimist about the future of this world.
I am deeply honored by this award from WAND, but I must accept it on behalf of all the members of September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows. And I am especially pleased that two other Peaceful Tomorrows members, Loretta Lilipov and Lauren Rosensweig are here with us.
On September 11, 2001, my sister Laura left her Manhattan apartment at about 6AM. She was going to work at a two-day, free-lance job helping to run a conference on information technology. The conference was being held at Windows on the World on the 106th floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center. No one in my family knew that that was where she was that day. It wasn?t until late in the afternoon that one of Laura’s friends telephoned me because she feared the worst. After I confirmed with the company that had organized the conference that Laura had been there, I had to call my father and my mother and tell them Laura was almost certainly dead. That is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life.
Laura was not a victim of war. She was murdered. Her death certificate says so very clearly.
As a victim’s relative I wanted truth and justice. I wanted everything about the hijackers to be fully and openly investigated in transparent, public proceedings. I wanted the hijackers’ accomplices and supporters identified, captured and tried in open courts. In short, I was hoping for all the things that Amnesty International has urged that we work to achieve throughout the world so that the freedoms, rights and security of people everywhere are protected.
When bombs fell on Afghanistan, I had no idea if it would spell defeat for Al Qaeda, I KNEW it meant that there would be thousands of families newly grieving, as mine already was.
When I heard about four September 11th victims relatives who had traveled to Afghanistan, in January of 2002, in order to draw attention to the civilian casualties of our bombing, I felt that I had found kindred spirits. I knew I wanted to join in their work as part of my efforts to heal from the pain of Laura’s violent death.
Those four travelers to Afghanistan and a handful of others founded September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows in February of 2002. The name of the organization comes from a speech given by Martin Luther King, Jr. in which he said: