- BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Lighting
candles and singing songs of peace, relatives of victims of the Sept. 11
attacks Wednesday visited a Baghdad shelter bombed during the Gulf War.
- "Suffering is universal. It connects us and we've
bonded together in that suffering," said Kristina Olsen, a nurse from
Massachusetts, as she sat among Iraqi children on the steps of al-Amiriyah
shelter where more than 400 civilians burned to death in February 1991.
- Olsen, 44, is one of four women members of Peaceful Tomorrows,
an anti-war group founded by families of Sept. 11 victims, visiting Iraq
on a six-day peace mission.
- "I do not want to see the beauty of the world wasted
on us, that is simply why we are here ... we want to do everything within
our power to prevent this war against Iraq," said Olsen, who lost
her 49-year-old sister Laurie on September 11, 2001.
- Washington is massing troops in the Gulf and has threatened
to attack Iraq unless it gives up its alleged chemical, biological and
nuclear weapons. Iraq denies having such arms.
- "My heart has been ripped open and healing has taken
place within me today," she said. "I hope that some sort of healing
is taking place for some other people, the Iraqi people who have shared
their stories with us and who have received our love and compassion."
- Playing a guitar, Olsen, also a singer and songwriter,
sang about compassion and understanding.
- "If you want to sum up why we are here, understanding
is the key. In coming and meeting people, in hearing their stories and
listening to them," she said.
- Terry Rockefeller of Massachusetts said Americans did
not realize how much they had in common with the Iraqi people.
- "I am concerned that there are people back in America
who do not know enough about the Iraqi people. I think my job is to return
and share my story of what I've learned," said Rockefeller, who lost
a sister in the hijacked airliner attacks.
- She said the team spent the day visiting a hospital and
the home of an ordinary Iraqi family.
- "I've found immediately an understanding of what
we have gone through which is something that you do not always find in
America," said New Yorker Colleen Kelly, who lost her brother William
in the World Trade Center.
- "We are here meeting with the Iraqi families but
we are equally concerned for service people around the world who would
be involved in any kind of a military operation," Kelly said.