Sister of Russell William Peterson
On the morning of 9-11 I was preaching ( I’m an ordained Minister, United Church of Christ) at a chapel service for patients/ families/staff at JMH, a county and teaching hospital in Miami. I was taking a clinical pastoral education unit and it was my day to lead the 8:15am service. I used a story about my two younger brothers , something I had never done before. The image of the two of them, Bob and Bill together, was crystal clear to me as I spoke. Then, minutes after the service, I became one of those people you never expect or want to be, a victim’s family. I was transfixed on the tv, watching, over and over as the towers fell. Billy, my youngest brother, worked on the 94 th floor of the WTC. He was there early, as my Dad had spoken to him at 8:30 am. I knew he wasn’t ever coming home, but still I waited for word that he somehow survived. For the next week or so family gathered at my Dad’s condo, finding some comfort in one another as we cried and hoped together. We had a memorial service in NYC a month later. A full year later a tiny box arrived with Billy’s “remains.”
Billy never had children, but he loved his nieces and nephew as his own. I often think, especially on holidays, how much he would love his great nieces and nephew. I ache that they never got to know him as their parents knew him. I imagine lots of laughter, though.
As much as so many of us lost that horrific day, I have not felt anger or hatred toward the terrorists who died that day. I don’t know why. I do remember my Dad, always a , patriot, saying he didn’t want revenge or war or anyone else, on either side, to suffer the loss of a child or loved one. More death in no way honored Billy or would help us heal.
I am devastated by the bombings and deaths caused by a sense of revenge, retribution and hate in the USA. I am deeply distressed by the lack of rule of law and human compassion at Guantanamo. I hurt for all those who are hurt because they have become a focus for hate of the “other.”
Before 9-11, I advocated for social justice and was somewhat active in interfaith events. Since my brother’ s death, these pursuits have helped me to grow and find some peace in my life. LGBTQ, immigrants, and those bullied and disenfranchised for whatever reason, have my support and my voice. And those of other faiths, whatever it may be, have my respect and willingness to work with them to build understanding and peaceful tomorrows.
Girlfriend of Rich Guadagno
People have asked me what got me through that period. Well, I had two of the best dogs on Earth, including Rich’s dog Raven, who depended on me for everything. They loved the beach and playing fetch; that’s enough to cheer most people up. My housemate and best friends made sure that I ate and occasionally got out of the house for more than doggie care.
The extended community here was also wonderful. Colleagues stepped in with no notice to take on the extra work of teaching my classes for a month. Donations to local environmental groups were made in Rich’s name. A local gas station waived what he owed on his credit card.
I had to face the fact that, even though it felt as if my world ended when Rich was killed, the world kept turning and life kept going forward. I started seeing a grief therapist, and she was key in helping me work through my grief.
It was a gradual process; I acted as if life was normal until I could feel like life was normal. Eventually, I was able to consider another relationship. I met my husband in 2006. We married in 2009.
One particularly helpful thing I did was join Peaceful Tomorrows. I found it through a web search, around 2011, and I’ve only met with members in person once, at our retreat in White Plains, New York.
Being surrounded by people who genuinely know just how you feel and what you’ve lost is very powerful. They’re also all people who, like me, believe that violence is never the answer. It’s been very important to me to actively work for peace in the world as a way to counteract the terror of the 9/11 attacks.