September 14, 2011
9/11 Victim’s Mother Expresses Forgiveness 10 Years After
For Voice of America: Tala Hadavi – White Plains, New York
Many Americans felt the need to retaliate after the terrorist attacks on theUnited Statesin 2001. And ever since then,U.S.forces have waged a world-wide war against the Islamic extremists who claimed responsibility.
But not all Americans seek retribution to ease their pain. Phyllis Rodriguez is one mother who expresses forgiveness, not hate, toward those who killed her son 10 years ago on September 11.
Phyllis Rodriguez’s son Greg died in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. He was a computer specialist working on the 103rd floor of the north tower. She recalls how she found out that something terrible had happened that Tuesday morning.
“On our answering machine was a message from Greg, our son, that said, ‘There’s been a terrible accident at the World Trade Center. I’m OK, call Elizabeth,’ our daughter-in-law.”
But Greg Rodriguez was not OK and neither were nearly 3,000 others.
“I was just hoping, hoping that he had survived, and not allowing myself to admit the worst,” recalled Rodriguez.
That came soon enough when Greg Rodriguez was declared dead. And with it came his parents’ conscious decision to make a difference.
“The main thing that we realized very early the morning of the 12th is that our government given its history, was going to do something military and violent in retaliation in the name of our son and that that wasn’t going to do any good and we didn’t support it.”
Phyllis Rodriguez and her husband Orlando released an open letter to then President George W. Bush.
“It ended up being circulated around the country and around the world. It was part of the way that helped us cope with the loss,” Rodriguez explained.
The couple wanted no part of revenge. They opposed the death penalty for the man who became known as the 20th highjacker, Zacarias Moussaoui. Phyllis befriended Zacarias’ mother, Aicha el-Wafi.
“I felt that this woman has to be very, very courageous because her son is the most hated person probably at the moment and here she was standing up for her son,” said Rodriguez. “We realized what we had in common was our common humanity. We were human beings. It is a very valuable part of my life and my healing.”
Rodriguez says she is disappointed by the way the U.S. government has used the war on terror in her son’s name.
“I feel terrible sorrow at all the losses, all the bereft families. We had the whole world in sympathy with us. We could’ve been leaders and working for world peace and peace in the Middle East. And what did we do? We blew it,” Rodriguez added.
Phyllis Rodriguez says she copes with the loss of her only son by opposing war and participating in human rights and forgiveness projects.
“I don’t think it happened for a reason, but it did happen and I feel fortunate that I had the inner resources to respond in the way that I did,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez says she is at peace knowing she will never see her son again, but is not at peace with the state of the world. That is why, she says, she is trying to make a difference.