"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate
multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of
destruction. The chain reaction of evil hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars must be broken, or we shall
be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation."
- Martin Luther King Jr.
September 19, 2001
An Open Letter to our National Leaders:
On September 11, as the world looked on in horror and disbelief, my husband, Craig Scott Amundson, of the US
Army lost his life in the line of duty at the Pentagon.
Losing my 28 year-old husband and father of our two young children is a terrible and painful experience. His death
is also part of an immense national loss, and I am comforted by knowing so many share my grief. But because I
have lost Craig as part of this historic tragedy, my anguish is compounded exponentially by fear that his death will
be used to justify new violence against other innocent victims.
I have heard angry rhetoric by some Americans, including many of our nation's leaders, who advise a heavy dose of
revenge and punishment. To those leaders, I would like to make clear that my family and I take no comfort in your
words of rage. If you choose to respond to this incomprehensible brutality by perpetuating violence against other
innocent human beings, you may not do so in the name of justice for my husband. Your words and imminent acts of
revenge only amplify our family's suffering, deny us the dignity of remembering our loved one in a way that would
have made him proud, and mock his vision of America as a peacemaker in the world community.
Craig enlisted in the army and was proud to serve his country. He was a patriotic American and a citizen of the
world. Craig believed that by working from within the military system he could help to maintain the military focus
on peacekeeping and strategic planning to prevent violence and war. For the last two years Craig drove to his job at
the Pentagon with a "visualize world peace" bumper sticker. This was not empty rhetoric or contradictory to him,
but part of his dream. He believed that his role in the Army could further the cause of peace throughout the world.
Craig would not have wanted a violent response to avenge his death. And I cannot see how good can come out of it.
We cannot solve violence with violence. Revenge is a self perpetuating cycle. Gandhi said, "An eye for an eye only
makes the whole world blind." We will no longer be able to see that we hold the light of Liberty if we ourselves are
blinded by vengeance, anger, and fear. I ask our nation's leaders not to take the path that leads to more widespread
hatreds that make my husband's death just one more in an unending spiral of killing.
I call on our national leaders to find the courage to respond to this incomprehensible tragedy by breaking the cycle
of violence. I call on them to marshal this great nation's skills and resources to lead a worldwide dialogue on
freedom from terror and hate. I call on them to focus our strength to work for justice and peace around the globe. I
ask them to unleash our country's immense energy to create a world in which compassion and forgiveness are
In these dark days of intense sadness, I have been inspired by the lyrics from a Tracy Chapman album that Craig
bought me when our first child was born. She writes, "There's too much fighting, too little understanding. It's time to
stop and start all over, make a new beginning."
I do not know how to begin making a better world: I do believe it must be done, and I believe it is our leaders'
responsibility to find a way. I urge them to take up this challenge and respond to our nation's and my personal
tragedy with a new beginning that gives us hope for a peaceful global community.
Amber Amdunson's letter was first published in the CHICAGO TRIBUNE, September 25, 2001.