Speaking Truth to Terror

Daughter of 9/11 victim advocates on behalf of other victims and families

September 6, 2011
by Doug Gavel

Ten years after the devastating attacks on America, the memories of 9/11 are still vivid and the emotions are still raw. For Carie Lemack MPA 2006, the day represents one of both collective and personal loss as her mother was among those killed in the crash of American Airlines Flight 11 at the World Trade Center. But as she grieved in the weeks and months that followed, Lemack channeled her sadness into an inspired campaign to advocate on behalf of victims and their families.

"There is no guidebook that prepares you to be a survivor of terrorism. No one tells you what you are supposed to do on Sept. 12, how you should respond," she writes. "I was 26 years old, working as a high-tech marketing professional, with no experience dealing with government officials, journalists or grieving victims. Little I had done could have prepared me for a life of activism."

Just a month after the attacks, Lemack formed the Families of September 11 to help advocate on behalf of those directly affected by the tragedy, and to push for public policy to ensure that what had happened never happens again. As the years progressed, she realized that the best way to prevent future attacks was to empower the voices of victims and survivors around the globe, especially survivors in places where there are those who sympathize with the grievances expressed by terrorists.

"As the so-called war on terror progressed, I was saddened and frustrated by the attention heaped on the bad guys," she says. "All the while, those who suffer at the hands of terrorists were often left by the wayside."

In 2009, Lemack co-founded the Global Survivors Network, dedicated to providing a platform for survivors to speak out and to present a counter-narrative to those who espouse terrorism as a means to resolve grievances.

"[Survivors around the globe are united in] our desire to prevent future attacks. We decided that we should merit the same attention as bin Laden and other terrorists, and that we should use the same tools they use. For every statement they make, we should make a counter-statement. For every video they release, we should release our own."

Last year Lemack served as executive producer of the Oscar-nominated documentary film "Killing in the Name," the story of a Jordanian whose wedding day was violently interrupted by a bomb blast in an Amman hotel, resulting in the death of 27 family members.

"In a perverse irony, I was taking my lead from [Osama] bin Laden, mirroring his tactics and movements to achieve opposite goals," Lemack remarked. "My idea to create a documentary film can be directly attributed to bin Laden’s success with his own videos and the desire it inspired in me to counter them... [and] It paid off."

Ten years after 9/11 and the loss of her mother on that tragic day, Carie Lemack continues her personal crusade of speaking out to make the world a safer and better place.

"If we speak truth to terror," she says, "then we can try to make a difference and hopefully prevent future attacks."

Photograph of Carie Lemack

Carie Lemack MPA 2006, founder of the Global Survivors Network
Photo Credit: Associated Press

"[Survivors around the globe are united in] our desire to prevent future attacks. We decided that we should merit the same attention as bin Laden and other terrorists, and that we should use the same tools they use. For every statement they make, we should make a counter-statement. For every video they release, we should release our own," Lemack says.

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