9/11 Family Says Anniversary Used To Promote Fear

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(Host) The parents of a Bennington man who died in the World Trade Center attacks say they’re dismayed at what they believe the September eleventh anniversary has become.

They say it’s being used to promote fear and political polarization, which they say plays into the hands of those who hate the U.S.

VPR’s Susan Keese has more.

(Keese) Nine years after their son’s death in a hijacked plane that struck the World Trade Center, Don and Sally Goodrich are still promoting Afghan education.

The Goodriches started a school in Afghanistan in 2005 . A foundation the couple set up to honor the memory of their son, Peter , also supports an orphanage. The Goodriches have formed deep friendships in the villages that host both the orphanage and the school.

But Sally Goodrich says it’s no longer safe to visit either, because of the unrest in Afghanistan.

(Sally Goodrich) "The influence of the Taliban has extended to areas that were once thought out of reach."

(Keese) The Goodriches’ school, near the Pakistani border, is still running.

In 2008, after many visits, the Goodriches were told by a village leader that the presence of Americans would put the leader and everyone else in danger.

Sally Goodrich says families face great risks to educate their children, especially girls.

The Goodriches have helped a couple dozen Afghan students go to school in the U.S and hosted many of them personally. They hope the students will become leaders who understand both cultures.

(Sally Goodrich) "I guess I wish more Americans would interact with Muslims, so they could see.  You know the kids in our house don’t drink, they don’t smoke, they do pray, some of them, some of them do not all of them are respectful of their religion. And nobody proselytizes. There is no hate speech coming out of their mouths."

(Keese) Goodrich says the hardest part of the  9-11 anniversary for her is seeing it used to promote divisiveness and political agendas.

(Sally Goodrich) "Which is very distressing, and is certainly not helpful to addressing the underlying causes of the events which led to that day."

(Keese) For example, the argument that building a Muslim center and mosque near Ground Zero would offend the families of 9-11 victims. Instead, Don Goodrich says, he embraces the idea.

(Don Goodrich.) "You cannot appreciate a culture unless you get close to it. Creating a polarized atmosphere around Islam defeats everything that I stand for and everything that Peter stood for.  And it’s harmful to our troops on a very pragmatic level."

(Keese) Even more damaging, they say, is a plan by a small Florida church to mark September 11 by burning copies of the Quran.

Don Goodrich says news like that creates a propaganda opportunity for Al Quaeda — and hands them on a platter exactly what they need to stimulate anti-American sentiment.

For VPR News, I’m Susan Keese in Manchester.

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