Loretta Filipov had some trepidation about visiting Los Angeles. The last time she’d been to LA was with her husband Al during the summer of 2001. On September 11th of that year, Al headed from Boston to LA for business as a passenger on American Airlines Flight 11 – the first plane to hit the World Trade Center on that terrible day. Al planned to take a redeye back to Boston on September 14 so he could be with Loretta for their 44th wedding anniversary.
Exacerbating Loretta’s emotions about coming to Los Angeles was the fact that she would take the exact same flight her husband had taken (though the specific flight number had been discontinued.)
Ultimately, the reason for her travel – to represent September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows in a series of events with PSR-LA – prevailed. Loretta was accompanied by another member of the group, Andrea LeBlanc, whose husband Robert was killed on Flight 175, also headed to LA.
Loretta and Andrea’s journey was part of a healing process as much as it was to spread the message that war and violence are poor tools to resolve conflict. In Los Angeles they were joined by seven others members of Peaceful Tomorrows, a group composed of family members of those killed on September 11, 2001 that offer a perspective of peace and reconciliation in the face of terrorism.
On February 12, PSR-LA co-hosted the event “Civilian Casualties: Ours and Theirs – Unique Perspectives from Physicians and Family Members of the September 11th Attacks,” at the Unitarian Church in Santa Monica. PSR-LA board co-chair Don Broder MD presented on the destruction of Iraq’s once advanced health infrastructure due to the war and its direct effects on civilians; without electricity, clean water, and medicine, the prospects for providing adequate health care are very grim. David Potorti, who lost his brother James at the WTC and is the director of Peaceful Tomorrows, discussed the group’s many projects to promote peace including visits to Afghanistan, Iraq, Jordan, and Japan to meet with victims of war. Loretta and Andrea also spoke, as did Peaceful Tomorrows members:
• Talat Hamdani, mother of police cadet Mohammed Salman Hamdani, killed at the WTC,
• Colleen Kelly, whose brother Bill was killed at the WTC,
• Adele Welty, mother of firefighter Timothy Welty, killed at the WTC.
Peaceful Tomorrows also met with UCLA medical students. Colleen Kelly, a nurse practitioner, discussed her experiences in Iraq reaching out to families who have lost relatives to the terrorism as well as consequences on Iraq’s medical community. She was joined by fellow Peaceful Tomorrows members:
• Barry Amundson, brother of Craig Amundson, killed at the Pentagon,
• Anthony Aversano, son of Louis Aversano, killed at WTC,
• Terry Rockefeller, whose sister, Laura, was killed at the WTC.
The event inspired the UCLA PSR-LA chapter to begin a campaign to remove US troops from Iraq.
On February 14, PSR-LA board member Shirley Magidson graciously opened her home to host a reception with author Gore Vidal. Mr. Vidal gave a troubling assessment of the Bush administration. He further addressed the scandal of irregularities with electronic voting machines. The noted author warned that no amount of activism would be effective if ballots are not counted.
The 9/11 organization appreciated PSR-LA efforts to bring their unique voice and perspective to Los Angeles. We, too, appreciate their appeal for healing and reconciliation in lieu of vengeance.