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Grieving Families Walk For Peace

12 December 2001

Yes, dear readers, there really are families whose loved ones were murdered on 9/11 - yet oppose America's war against terrorism.

Several of them were in New York City when I caught up with them over the weekend, finishing up their Walk for Healing and Peace.

The tour was launched Nov. 26 in Washington, D.C., by the Amundson family. Craig Scott Amundson, 31, was killed on 9/11 in the Pentagon by a direct hit from the suicide plane.

While the tour was still being planned, Craig's wife, Amber, wrote a letter to President Bush, excerpted here:

Dear President Bush,
My name is Amber Amundson. I am a 28-year-old single mother of two small children ... because my husband was murdered on September 11 while working under your direction. My husband, Craig Scott Amundson, was an active duty multimedia illustrator. ... I am not doing well. I am hurt that the U.S. is moving forward in such a violent manner. I do not hold you responsible for my husband's death, but I do believe you have a responsibility to listen to me and please hear my pain.

I do not like unnecessary death. I do not want anyone to use my husband's death to perpetuate violence. So, Mr. President, when you say that vengeance is needed so that the victims of 9/11 do not die in vain, could you please exclude Craig Scott Amundson from your list of victims used to justify further attacks?

Please Mr. Bush, help me honor my husband. He drove to the Pentagon with a Visualize World Peace bumper sticker on his car every morning. ... When we buried my husband, an American flag was laid over his casket. My children believe (it) represents their dad. Please let that representation be one of love, peace and forgiveness. ... Please find a nonviolent way to bring justice to the world."

Amber Amundson.

When the tour began, it was all Amundsons - brothers, sisters, spouses, girlfriends - plus some religious leaders and humanitarian organizations acting as guides and sponsors. But as it wound it's way toward New York - stopping for vigils and teach-ins in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and New Jersey - others decided to march, until they had their own little parade.

David Portorti, 45, whose 52-year-old brother Jim died in the World Trade Center offices of Marsh McClennen where he was a vice president, started walking with the group as a tribute to his brother. "I know Jim's values. He really loved his family and he was really gentle to everyone. I just wanted to do this for him."

David Portorti, a writer, spent a lot of happy times with his big brother, having lived in New York for a decade before enrolling for a master's in folklore at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Back again in New York, he found himself walking down Broadway to look at ground zero. "I cried a bit. I think of all the things we did and all the fun we had."

Heading back uptown, there was still no end to reminders of Jim, so David kept his head down, almost missing the giant banner strung across a building on Lafayette Street: "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind."

"Martin Luther King? Oh, no - that was Ghandi!" David exclaimed.

"Look at me - here I am stepping into the limelight because by virtue of losing a brother I can speak out against the war, making it safer for others to do it."

Yes, dear readers, it's dangerous to be a pacifist nowadays, but we'll come out when the time is right. Count on it.

As nurse practitioner Colleen Kelly put it Sunday, just meeting others "who didn't want to see mothers and fathers and siblings lose what my family lost" gave her more peace than she's known since her brother William Kelly Jr. was murdered on 9/11.

"He was one of the kindest people you'd ever meet. He'd zero in on someone in a crowd who was feeling awkward and have them relaxed in a minute."

Having lost her baby brother to violence, shall she let the government cheapen the life he lived by using his death to beget more death?

"This is my one last chance to stick up for him, and I have no intention of being silenced," says Colleen.

Amy Pagnozzi.
Published in the Hartford Courant.
2001 by The Hartford Courant.

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