Susan Retik and Patti Quigley
One of the most underreported stories about the aftermath of 9/11 has been the refusal of some victims to conform to the xenophobic model created in the name of American patriotism by George W. Bush and company.
“Beyond Belief”, a documentary directed by Beth Murphy opening at the Cinema Village in N.Y. on Friday and nationwide thereafter, tells the story of two women who lost their husbands on 9/11 when the airplanes they boarded that day crashed into the World Trade Center. Susan Retik and Patti Quigley were both pregnant on September 11 and complete strangers to each other, living comfortable lives as “soccer moms” in the suburbs of Boston.
After their devastating loss, they looked each other up and decided before long to launch a charity on behalf of their counterparts in Afghanistan, women who lost their husbands in war. The film shows them raising money for their foundation by riding bicycles from N.Y. to Boston, doing interviews and reminiscing about their husbands.
Eventually they decide to visit Afghanistan to check up on the results of their contributions, which were mostly dedicated to making widows self-sufficient through small businesses, including raising poultry. This is deadly serious business considering the unraveling of the “war on terror” over the past few years. Suicide bombs and kidnappings have grown more frequent, including one that nearly cost the life of their chief liaison in Afghanistan, a CARE worker named Clementina Cantoni.
The final section of the movie shows the women meeting with Afghan women and talking about their respective losses and their hopes for the future. While the politics of their project is obviously different from the one that I was involved with in 1980s Nicaragua, there is something of the same feeling of shared humanity. While the film is fairly conventional in its treatment of the subject matter, the final moments of the film will bring tears to the eyes of just about everybody who watches it. There was far more genuine emotion on display than just about anything I have seen in a big budget Hollywood production for some time.
I could not help but think of Barack Obama’s campaign as I watched this movie. Although I am a long-time critic of the Democratic Party and have written an article exposing the rightwing tendencies of his economic advisers, I find the support consolidating around his campaign to be most encouraging. After 8 years of war, racism and greed, the American people seem to be doing everything they can to repudiate the status quo. By ignoring all the attempts to brand Barack Hussein Obama as some kind of secret jihadist, they are making a statement that they are sick of business as usual.
For more information on the work of Susan Retik and Patti Quigley, go here.