Jeddah, Asharq Al-Awsat— For the first time last week, the relative of a victim of the September 11 attacks spoke in public in the Kingdom, as part of the 7th Jeddah Economic Forum.
Sonia Tita Puopolo is the daughter of Sonia Morales Puopolo, who was a passenger on American Airlines flight 11 that first crashed into New York’s World Trade Center.
Speaking at a session entitled “Terrorism- the human toll”, Sonia indicated she had decided to come to this western port city to take part in efforts to curb the spread of animosity and hate amongst different cultures. She hoped to “establish channels of communication with Saudis based on dialogue and the respect of the other.” “Terrorism has no religion and no country”, she added.
“I am here to ask you for your help in forging a bridge of peace, dialogue and understanding between the peace-seeking people of Saudi Arabia, the United States and the world to make the world better for our children,” the Harvard graduate said.
Puopolo revealed that many Americans asked her why she chose to visit Saudi Arabia after what had happened and considered such questions as part of the problem.
Her mother was on a schedule filed from Boston to Los Angeles when the plane was flown by Mohammed Atta and his associates into the north tower. “I didn’t watch the incident when it happened and I avoid footage of the plane crashing into the tower. It was bloody, violent and sad”, she told the audience.
Holding back tears, she said, “My mother worked in a specialist center for the rehabilitation of mentally disabled individuals. She was 58 when she died. She harbored no feelings of hate or contempt towards anyone. I miss her a lot and so do my brothers.”
But terrorism, despite its brutality and barbarism has a “positive aspect as it has allowed me to discover other cultures and learn about the problems in the world.”
The Harvard university graduate indicated that, if she ever had the chance to meet Osama bin Laden, she would simply ask him, “Why?”
Sonia called on all governments to bridge the cultural and communication divide between countries. “Despite technological developments in the field of communication, we have yet to establish a dialogue between civilizations and increase the links and cultural understanding between people.”
Puopolo said there were differences that divided the two countries and cultures but forums like these should be used to renew efforts to enhance ‘what united us and to build relationships and respect for what divides us.” “This is a philosophy found in your culture and mine, in your religion and mine,” she added.