the net of people deeply affected by political violence
Andrea LeBlanc: ’I’m Looking for Justice, Not Vengeance’
Wednesday 4 May 2011
A 9/11 widow on working for peace when the world expects you to want revenge
Following the news that Osama bin Laden, the man responsible for the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, had been killed by U.S. forces in Pakistan, many Americans took to the streets to celebrate. Draped in American flags, they chanted "USA! USA!" and lit sparklers and fireworks. The next morning, newspapers appeared with exultant headlines. "Vengeance at Last! US Nails the Bastard," declared the New York Post, while more sedate publications quoted President Obama’s speech: "Justice has been done."
Meanwhile, some of the family members of those who lost their lives during bin Laden’s attack—a group that some might have expected to join in the celebrations—released a quiet statement:
[(It is our hope that the rule of law, underpinned by our Constitution that was so terribly strained in the name of September 11th, will again become the guiding light of our policies at home and abroad. One person may have played a central role in the September 11th attacks, but all of us have a role to play in returning our world to a place of peace, hope and new possibilities. We hope that process will begin today.)]
It came from September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, a group that has confounded some people’s expectations since it was formed in the aftermath of 9/11. Members came together not because they wanted to see their loved ones avenged, but because they didn’t want the cycle of violence that led to their deaths to continue. They have opposed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the extrajudicial procedures of Guantánamo Bay, the backlash against the so-called Ground-Zero Mosque, and even the death penalty for Zacarias Moussaoui, convicted on charges of terrorism.
- Andrea LeBlanc
I spoke with Andrea LeBlanc, a veterinarian and board member of Peaceful Tomorrows whose husband, Robert, died at the World Trade Center, to find out what it’s like to work for peace when the world expects you to want revenge.
Brooke Jarvis: Would you mind telling me about your experience on 9/11—what happened, how you felt?
Andrea LeBlanc: My husband, Robert LeBlanc, taught cultural geography at the University of New Hampshire; he was on his way to a conference in L.A. that morning. He flew out of Logan Airport in Boston [on Flight 175, the plane that hit the South Tower of the World Trade Center].
This past Sunday, I was out running errands and just enjoying the day—it was such a beautiful, glorious day. And it struck me—I’ve thought this at other times, too, but it struck me again on Sunday—that this beautiful day, it could be lost in a flash. That’s what happened on 9/11: You’re blindsided by something that happens without warning, and changes everything. 9/11 was devastating, for lots of reasons. It took me and my family a long time to come to grips with it.
Brooke Jarvis: How did you feel when you heard the news about the killing of bin Laden?
Andrea LeBlanc: People keep asking: “So did this bring closure?” And I don’t know if I believe there is such a thing; I really don’t know what it means. When tragedy hits, you slowly, over time, learn to absorb it. It becomes part of the fabric of your life; it doesn’t go away, you just learn to live with it.
Certainly the death of bin Laden didn’t afford closure for any of the family members I know. None of us were feeling like celebrating. I guess in part because you just don’t celebrate the death of anyone, even someone who’s essentially your enemy. It’s just anathema.
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Brooke Jarvis interviewed Andrea LeBlanc for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions. Brooke is YES! Magazine’s web editor.
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I and my group of 9/11 victims’ relatives hope we will take this opportunity to restore the US to the path of justice, not war
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 3 May 2011