Last week during lunch, I closed my office door, opened my yoghurt, and watched the newest acquisition to the law library’s video collection – In Our Son’s Name. The 64-minute film documents the journey of Phyllis and Orlando Rodríguez after the death of their son Greg in the 9/11 terror attacks on the World Trade Center. Film maker Gayla Jamison produced and directed the documentary about their ongoing reconcilation work. It is an amazing story and I encourage you to check out the video. You may borrow the documentary at the law library’s circulation desk or order your own copy from the website.
I learned of the documentary when I met Phyllis and her daughter, Julia, while serving as an NGO Observer of the 9/11 Hearings at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for the U.S. Military Commission Observation Project established by the law school’s Program in International Human Rights Law. Phyllis and Julia were at the 9/11 hearings as Victims’ Family Members representatives.
Four days after the 9/11 attacks Phyllis and Orlando wrote an open letter, “Not In Our Son’s Name,” calling on President Bush not to resort to a military retaliation against Afghanistan. The print version is here. As a result of the letter circulating on the internet along with several others by victims’ family members calling for non-violent solutions, they met others who held similar beliefs. From these connections, the non-profit September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows was formed on February 14, 2002.
The organization’s mission is stated on its website as follows: “an organization founded by family members of those killed on September 11th who have united to turn our grief into action for peace. By developing and advocating nonviolent options and actions in the pursuit of justice, we hope to break the cycles of violence engendered by war and terrorism. Acknowledging our common experience with all people affected by violence throughout the world, we work to create a safer and more peaceful world for everyone.” (Peaceful Tomorrows website).The organization has received numerous awards, including a Nobel Peace Prize nomination in 2004.
At the conclusion of the week’s hearings, the defense teams, prosecution, and Victims’ Family Members hold a press conference. Phyllis spoke first saying she was a 9/11 victim’s family member and as such she was a member of a “club no one wants to join.” Phyllis then went on to say that she had always opposed the death penalty, but that her conviction had not been tested before 9/11. The documentary is the story of her family’s extraordinary work.
*You can read more about my experiences (as well as those of others) at the 9/11 hearings on the Gitmo Observer blog.