Andrew Rice (USA)

“Those people crying loudest for retribution so often seem to be the least affected.”

Photography by Brian Moody

On September 11 2001, investment banker David Rice was killed when the World Trade Center collapsed. Since then, his younger brother, Andrew Rice, has dedicated himself to trying to understand the underlying causes of violence. He is a member of Peaceful Tomorrows, a group founded by family members of September 11 victims seeking effective non-violent responses to terrorism.

“I was covering the Toronto Film Festival as a journalist on September 11. It was a bright sunny morning when my mum rang. ‘Andrew, are you alone?’ she asked, and a kind of dread came over me. She told me David had rung to tell her that a plane had hit the World Trade Center but that he was OK: it had hit the other tower. I rushed to the press room of my hotel and as I walked in I saw the second jet hit. I was hysterical now and ran back to my hotel suite. I turned on the TV to catch the first tower collapsing. At this point I just let out this terrible shriek, overwhelmed by the certainty that David was dead.

David and I were always close. As teenagers we were both wild – we dropped out of college and partied too much until our twenties, when we both sobered up. The process of sobering up makes you face yourself and makes you understand that everyone has good and bad in them. When David was killed it helped me to handle my grief and anger.

When the New York Times published its “Portrait of Grief” of David, I was too distressed to take it in, but some months later I looked at the newspaper again and was shocked that in that same edition – just six days after the attacks – Vice President Cheney was saying, ‘if you’re against us you’ll feel our wrath’. The nation was in shock, like clay waiting to be moulded, and here were our leaders saying we would rid the world of evil. There was a battle going on inside me – the visceral part was saying ‘we’ll show them’, but the more rational part was saying ‘force won’t help’. Then, as reports of civilian casualties came in from Afghanistan, I found myself getting more and more upset that ordinary people like my brother were losing their lives. When I discovered Peaceful Tomorrows on the Internet, it was a huge relief to realise I wasn’t the only one who thought retribution would get us nowhere.

Later, a group called Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation were contacted by the mother of the alleged 20th hijacker, Zacharias Moussaoui, who has been held in solitary confinement in Northern Virginia since September 11. She had a unique request. She wanted to meet some of the families of the victims and ask for their forgiveness.

We were nervous; scared of our Government finding out, and scared it would be just too upsetting. But finally a small group of us agreed to meet Madame al-Wafi in New York City in November 2002. As we waited in a private university building, a mother whose son was killed in the World Trade Centre went down the hall to meet her. We heard footsteps, then silence. Then we heard this sobbing. Finally they both came into the room, both mothers with their arms around each other. By now we were all crying. Madame al-Wafi reminded me a lot of my own mother, who had cried so much after David died. She spent three hours with us and told us how the extremist group had given her mentally ill son a purpose in life.

One day I’d like to meet Zacharias Moussaoui. I’d like to say to him, ‘you can hate me and my brother as much as you like, but I want you to know that I loved your mother and I comforted her when she was crying’.

My attitude is not all altruism. Of course I’m angry, but there’s a spiritual supremacy. I’m protecting my brother’s spirit by putting a barricade around him. I’m refusing to fall in line with what “they” want, which is visceral hatred between two sides; this gives me permission to reconcile. Those people crying loudest for retribution so often seem to be the least affected.”

 

http://www.mvfr.org/