He was the one who knew why cities grew up where they did, the long-forgotten history behind the lines on the map. After Sept. 11, Andrea longed for his knowledge. “People asked, ‘Why do they hate us so much?’ ’’ she says. “It’s a good question, and it’s a question we would have asked Bob.’’
At first, she withdrew. She didn’t want to talk about it, or take drugs, or see a therapist. She stopped going to her local grocery store, to avoid the tearful questions, the burden of reassuring others that she was OK.
Then, at the end of 2002, she heard about a group called September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, started by a handful of relatives of 9/11 victims to advocate for nonviolence. As soon as she met them, Andrea felt relief; with them, she didn’t have to explain her feelings.
In February 2003, just before the war began in Iraq, she attended her first protest march, in Washington, D.C. Since then, she has traveled the world as a peace activist. In 2005, she helped organize a 385-mile peace walk in Japan, where people in their 70s and 80s, survivors of the atomic bombs that fell in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, wept and shared their stories after 60 years of silence. In 2006, she took part in an international conference on nonviolence in New York where participants included a priest who lost both hands to a letter bomb while fighting apartheid and a woman who befriended the IRA bomber who killed her father. The woman, Jo Berry, has become a friend.
“I started to feel like I had a place in a global community,’’ Andrea says. “When you know about all the other 9/11s, it’s harder to get lost in your own grief.’’
Adamantly, she rejects the role of grieving widow. It’s not her grief that is important or unique, she said. “The story is 9/11, and what’s happened since . . . the erosion of civil liberties, the military spending, the fact that our security has come at the price of our humanity.’’
She testified for the defense at the 2006 sentencing of Zacarias Moussaoui, the convicted 9/11 co-conspirator who received a life sentence instead of the death penalty.
Her goal, she says, is to show her grandchildren they have choices.
“The reason I do this is to make it plain there are options,’’ she says. “It’s a false choice, to think you can only respond to violence with violence or by doing nothing. . . . We’re as capable of empathy as retaliation. It’s what you decide to nurture, what society wants to be.’’
Her activism has given her another family, and a new purpose—she sold her veterinary practice in 2005 to give herself more time pursue it—but it can’t replace what she lost 10 years ago. The house is still too quiet; Bob always played classical music, loudly, and banged his pots and pans. It has been even quieter lately, since her beloved border terrier died in mid-August. She and Bob picked out the dog together in August 2001, when she was two days old, and Andrea took her home in October, after he was killed.
Nettle slept beside her every night. It helped, she says, “because that’s part of the loss, having no living presence you can lean against.’’
She finds solace in her garden, which has grown steadily over the years. Sitting by the fish pond, counting frogs or watching a bee drink from a lily pad, “I’m not fretting, I’m somewhere else,’’ she says. “It’s like meditation, when you’re absorbed in something you’re drawn to. A butterfly was laying eggs on my wrist, and I sat here forever. . . . A hummingbird hovers in front of my face, and I think, that’s a gift.’’
She still loves traveling—she is headed to South Africa later this month to honor Nelson Mandela—but trips with Bob were fueled by a geographer’s passion. “To travel with him was to feel electricity,’’ she says. “Even in the airport terminal, he couldn’t sit. He had to go and see the people, where the planes were going.’’
The day before he died, driving home from a visit to one of their children, Bob told Andrea he had a 10-year plan for travel to developing countries, the places he wanted to see before he was too old to get there. He was saving the United States for later, he said, when he would need easier journeys.
Globe correspondent Alexander C. Kaufman contributed to this report. Jenna Russell can be reached at email@example.com.