Public opinion in America is overwhelmingly in support of the Bush administration’s war on terrorism. But about ten percent of Americans oppose the war, and the most activist among them will be in Washington this weekend to demonstrate against the war. Carolyn Weaver has a profile of one woman whose beliefs have only deepened since she lost her brother on September 11.
Every Friday before the Easter holiday, Colleen Kelly, her husband and their young children make the yearly “Stations of the Cross” walk across New York City led by Pax Christi, a Catholic antiwar group. The walk is both a reflection on the suffering of Jesus as he carried his own cross to his place of execution, and a peace protest. This year, the walk meant even more for Colleen and her husband, Dan Jones.
Colleen Kelly’s only brother, William H. Kelly, 30, went to a restaurant at the top of the World Trade Center for a business meeting on September 11. When the tower was struck by one of the hijackers’ planes, he sent a message to his boss that he was trapped in the building. He was not heard from again. There’s a shrine of photographs and mementos in Colleen Kelly’s house now. Colleen smiles at a portrait of a round-faced boy with curly black hair, her brother at five: “This is another favorite of mine... isn’t that beautiful?”
As an adult, she remembers, “He wasn’t a real loud, life of the party kind of guy,” she remembers. “But he always had a knack for helping people who didn’t quite fit in, to draw them, and to draw them into whatever was happening. And there’s such a grace to that. He was also great with kids... He would arrive at my parents house and the kids would start screaming, ‘Uncle Billy’s here!’ He would carry as many of them as he could, his arms filled with kids. He taught them surfing, he would take them out on his boat, he really spent a lot of time with them. It wasn’t about material things or presents. His real gift to my children and my sisters’ children was his time.”
A deeply religious Catholic, Colleen was a pacifist before September 11. The horror of that day has only made her more certain of her beliefs. “I do feel,” she says, “that as someone who lost someone who was very very, very dear to me, that I can make it safer for people to question or for people to think about this.”
And so, Colleen Kelly is volunteering fulltime now for an organization of other families of 9/11 victims called Peaceful Tomorrows. They’re allied with other peace groups that want an end to the military campaign against terrorism, and compensation for civilian Afghan victims of American bombing.
At a speech at New York’s Barnard College, she tells a crowd of young activists, “It’s really crying out: ‘Please don’t be bombing in the names of our loved ones. It may be in the name of other loved ones, but not ours.’ So, Peaceful Tomorrows was born – thank you..."
“It’s not just enough for me to say, the bombing is wrong,” she says, “I feel like it’s not enough for the peace movement to say it’s wrong – we have to come up with an idea about what is right, an alternative, another way... Because we spend so much money on intelligence and defense and that didn’t make me safe, it didn’t make my brother safe, that didn’t save my brother.”