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Anti-war Documents Menu / Archived Documents Menu / September 11 relatives


September 11 Relatives speak out against war

Event hosted by Voices in the Wilderness UK and ARROW

Report of Kelly and Ryans Visit
Excerpts from Kelly's speech
Anti-war briefing No. 13 - Six Months on: the victims

Kelly Campbell lost her brother-in-law Craig Scott Amundson in the Pentagon on September 11th 2001. Together with other September 11th relatives, she travelled to Afghanistan in January 2002 on a mission of peace and reconciliation. Kelly is a key figure in Peaceful Tomorrows, an anti-war network of September 11th relatives. Their website is www.peacefultomorrows.org

Kelly visited the UK with Ryan Amundson, Craig's brother, in February 2002.

'Wars are poor chisels for carving out peaceful tomorrows’ Martin Luther King, Jr.

On September 11 Craig Scott Amundson was killed while working in the Pentagon. In February, his sister in law, Kelly Campbell and his brother, Ryan Amundson, travelled to the UK to speak about their own reactions to the 'war on terrorism' and their actions for peace in the months that have followed.

“One of the hardest days was the day we had a memorial service for Craig in his home town. We gathered with his friends to tell Craig stories and to talk about who he was and what an important person he was to all of us. And as we were preparing to go to the memorial service we turned on the television and that's when we learned that our government had started bombing in Afghanistan. And for me that was such a difficult day because I knew that there were other families for whom that day was their September 11th.

Kelly continues: “As the weeks and months went by, we didn't hear much about those families. And yet we continued to hear our stories. We have felt the sympathy and the human connection with other people all over the world who care about us. But I kept wondering about those Afghan families and who was caring about them”.

In November, Kelly Camp-bell and Ryan Amundson joined a small group who had lost relatives on September 11 on the Walk for Healing and Peace. Under the banner ‘Our grief is not a cry for war’, they covered the distance between Washington DC and Ground Zero, New York, stopping to talk to the communities through which they passed, expressing their determination to talk of alternatives to war.

In January this year, Kelly and three other relatives undertook another mission for peace and reconcilitation, this time to Afghanistan. They met Afghan families whose lives had been blighted by the US bombing and they spoke against the continuing cycle of violence to US and Afghan politicians and officials. Kelly has a photograph of 6 year old boy. “His name is Fardeen. And he lives in Kabul about a kilometre away from the airport. So when the bombs fell on his neighbourhood, all the neighbours thought, well, they're trying to bomb the airport but apparently they've missed. On the day that the bombs fell in his neighbourhood, this little boy stopped talking. And he also stopped walking. He has reverted to an infantile state. He has to be carried around. He's starting to act more like a baby. And this is in a country where there's virtually no mental health care available.

“I met an eight-year-old boy who was missing part of his hand. He told us that he had been playing near his house with his ten-year-old friend, and that his friend had seen something yellow and picked it up and he had shouted "No! Don't touch it!" And he watched his friend explode and die. And he's in the hospital missing part of his hand”.

Kelly spoke of a conversation she had with her two year old niece Charlotte, Craig's child, in which the little girl’s knowledge of her father's death was clear. “It made me think about how I'm going to explain all this to Charlotte some day, and what action has our Government taken to respond to Craig's murder. As far as I can tell, the main action that they've taken is to kill more innocent people and to give more children horrible stories to tell.”

During their stay in Afghanistan, the relatives met people who had approached the US Embassy for help after losing their houses, livelihoods or families in the bombing. They were turned away and one woman who had lost all but one child was dismissed as a beggar. The relatives held a press conference outside the Embassy highlighting the desparate situation that many Afghan people have been left in and they were able to get some assistance for them. They also delivered messages from American school children to which young Afghani girls responded with both a plea that they not be forgotten and an enduring faith in the citizens of the West.

The long term committment of the relatives has led them to establish September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows. The title comes from the Martin Luther King quote - a message that the 20 or so families involved are taking around the US through speaking tours and press conferences. The group seeks to create a safe and open dialogue on alternatives to war and the search for justice, create a commonality with all people affected by violence and work against erosion of civil liberties and other freedoms at home as a consequence of war.

They are currently calling on the US government to conduct a study of civilian casualties and to establish an Afghan Victims Fund to compensate the 'sister families' of Afghan victims. “Afghan relief organizations suggest an average grant of $10,000 to rebuild homes, restock possessions, secure adequate medical and psychological care, or compensate for the loss of breadwinners and caretakers. Assuming 2,000 families seek compensation, this would amount to a meager $20 million. Twenty million is less than one day's military expense during the bombing campaign, which cost $30 million a day.”

Fearing that a positive response from the US government will be some time coming, the group have started the work themselves. As among those most affected by the events of September 11, the relatives are determined that their voices will be heard. “The greatest honor to my brother's life would be that his death would mark the end of this vicious cycle of violence. Stopping terrorism requires fundamental social and economic changes. The current strategy of reliance on violent force does not address these essential aspects. The Bush Administration should concentrate more on exploring alternatives to an ineffective, counterproductive, and vengeful military campaign.”

Contact: www.peacefultomorrows.org, 415-518-1991, kelly@peacefultomorrows.org

Report by Emma Sangster, first printed in Non-violent Action

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