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What is an appropropriate response?
Political and philosophical considerations after the attack on the Word Trade Center

Stop the War, Plead Parents of NY Victim

by Duncan Campbell
October 14, 2001

Hours after air strikes on Afghanistan began last week, thousands attended
a peace rally in New York. They heard 87-year-old Reuben Schafer, whose
grandson Gregory Rodriguez was killed in the World Trade Center on 11
September, read a letter from Gregory's parents, Phyllis and Orlando
Rodriguez, to President Bush.

It read: 'Your response to the attack does not make us feel better about
our son's death... It makes us feel our government is using our son's
memory as justification to cause suffering for other sons and parents in
other lands.'

The Rodriguez family is part of a growing network of relatives opposing the
attacks on Afghanistan. Phyllis Rodriguez, speaking from her Westchester
home, said she had been inspired by her son's 'instinctive
internationalism' to register her protests. When 14 years old Gregory
Rodriguez spent a month studying in Spain and was puzzled to find how much
the Spanish hated the French. When he returned home he told his parents:
'Nationalism stinks.' Some 17 years after that Spanish trip, the
31-year-old head of computer security at Cantor Fitzgerald was killed in
his office on the 103rd floor of the World Trade Center.

'He liked the challenge of the workaday world,' said his mother. He had
been at Cantor Fitzgerald for three years following seven years at Salomon
Brothers, where he had met his wife of a year, Eliza Soudant.

His tastes, in music as in people, were eclectic: from opera and reggae to
Tom Waits and the Beastie Boys. 'He was hungry for life, a very outgoing
guy and he loved new experiences and travel,' said Phyllis Rodriquez.

His travels and his work took him to Cuba and Japan, Guatemala and England,
hiking, scuba diving and exploring. He liked to get off the beaten track
and meet people of different nationalities. Then came 11 September and his
parents, like thousands of others, found themselves searching the hospitals
and waiting for news.

Calls were already being made for the bombing of Afghanistan, and a CBS/
New York Times poll found that 75 per cent of those interviewed favored
war, even if it meant the deaths of innocent civilians. The Rodriguez
family decided they had to speak out so that such retaliation was not
carried out in their son's name.

'I feel the American public has to join the international community in a
meaningful way, and stop being an isolationist nation,' said Phyllis Rodriguez.
'One way we can do it is by educating ourselves. It's not part of our
national consciousness - the conditions under which people live in Iraq,
Rwanda, Paraguay. That's the first step: to learn about the sufferings and
joys of other people. We have to find out why we are hated in other parts
of the world.'

The family have made contact with others who have lost members in the
attacks and who feel as they do. In his memorial service speech shortly
after the attacks, the President singled out an unnamed man 'who could have
saved himself' but instead 'stayed until the end at the side of his
quadriplegic friend'. The man was Abe Zelmanowitz, a 54-year-old computer
programmer who worked for Blue Cross Blue Shield in the World Trade Center.

Matthew Lasar, Zelmanowitz's nephew, said: 'He was a warm and compassionate
person, very principled, with a wonderful droll sense of humor.'

Zelmanowitz had telephoned his family after the first plane struck to
explain that he could not leave his friend, wheelchair-bound Ed Beyea,
behind. 'He called his brother Jack, and said he was not going to come
back. The two of them met their ends in the building.'

A devout Orthodox Jew from Brooklyn, Zelmanowitz was in the garment trade
until it collapsed in the Seventies and studied computer programming so
that he could begin a new career.

Lasar, 46, said his cousin, Saul, and his friends had been searching the
hospitals on 11 September and someone had told a reporter about his uncle's
decision not to abandon his friend. The White House heard of it and it was
decided to include the story in the President's speech.

Lasar said : 'I can't put words into his [Zelmanowitz's] mouth, but I know
a little about Afghanistan and I know it [bombing] would result in a famine
of unbelievable consequences. I don't think people in this country realize
we are so powerful. In terms of my own grief, I don't know how to describe
it, but in the private place I am right now I don't want to see any more
bloodshed. I felt I had an obligation to say that.'

Other relatives have added their voices. Judy Keane, whose husband Richard
was killed, told CNN: 'Bombing Afghanistan is just going to create more
widows, more homeless, fatherless children.' Jill Gartenberg, whose husband
Jim was killed in the attacks, told Fox news: 'We don't win by killing
other people.'

As for the pursuit of those who planned the attacks, Phyllis Rodriguez said
she had hoped for 'due process, a fair trial, no shoot-first, bomb-first
policy. It may be painful and slow, but it would be the best testament to
my son and to all of those who died'.

(Published on Sunday, October 14, 2001 in the Observer of London)