WETHERSFIELD, CT Within the unspeakable sadness of loss, Judy Keane has discovered her own powerful voice.
Now this shy nurse is telling politicians, priests and CNN what she began to articulate in the hellish hours after the morning of Sept. 11, when Richard Keane, her husband of 31 years, vanished in the collapse of the World Trade Center.
"I don't want my children to have to go to war to avenge their father's death,'' she said Thursday, blue eyes blazing, her weary face momentarily seeming less worn.
Today, quiet Judy Keane's words are at the forefront of a gathering, if small, movement urging President Bush to show great restraint in the country's response to last week's attack. She'd rather not be doing all this, but feels she must.
So after the governor's kind comments on the telephone the other night, Keane mother of five boys, wife of a Vietnam veteran told John Rowland she wasn't quite ready to hang up.
"We have had an awful incident that should never have happened. And it is frightening and horrible. But we can stop it now,'' Keane recalled telling Rowland Monday evening. "Anybody that thinks that terrorism is going to stop because we bomb Afghanistan is wrong.''
In that phone conversation, Keane said, Rowland told her that "there is one person that we need to convince ... and he said that is the president.'' She said he agreed to send Bush a huge banner signed by participants at a Wethersfield peace vigil Sunday night once he himself signed it.
Thursday evening, a spokesman for the governor said the banner was on its way to the White House. Signed by hundreds of people, the banner simply reads "Peace on Earth.''
It was in the tearful hours and days after the bombings, as the ghastly search for her husband and more than 6,000 others wore on, that Judy Keane noticed something. Her words were drawing wide media attention in a country that seemed to be beating drums for war. Last weekend, when she realized her own statements were being discussed even in church, quoted by a priest at the altar, she knew.
"I never sought the limelight. But I feel a need to do that now. I'm Catholic. I grew up Catholic. I remember the horrors of Vietnam,'' said Keane, sitting in her Early American-style living room.
She hangs two flags in front of her house. She wants those who orchestrated last Tuesday's attacks caught and brought to justice. But right now she'll do almost anything to avoid a war. It's a question that even her large, grieving family is debating.
Before she read aloud a letter she sent to President and Laura Bush this week she repeated that she is not a pacifist or merely a war protester. She's a mother whose husband has been murdered, and she wants the killing to stop.
"The recent events have overwhelmed many in the country with emotions of anger and frustration. Retaliation against another country for this horrendous crime is not the answer,'' she said, reading the letter she tucked in with the banner sent to Washington. "We cannot be responsible for the suffering of innocent families in America and abroad. We cannot send loved ones off to war.''
This week, Judy sent her husband's razor off to New York so a DNA sample could be collected. She doesn't watch the endless television news programs. The family hopes his body will be found.
Despite it all, Judy still can't believe it. She and Dick met in college, during their senior year at St. Anselm College in New Hampshire. For most of their married life, the Keanes have lived in Wethersfield, raising a family, becoming active in their church and community. Along the way, Judy said, it was Dick who always urged her on, dragging her out of her shell.
She's certain Dick Keane is right there with her now.
"My husband knows that I do really well if I am busy. He has a lot to do with all this. I used to be very shy. It was his tutelage and fostering,'' she explained, as if Dick had only stepped out to his garden to pick a tomato or turn the compost pile.
"He'd always say to me, You can do this, you can do this,'" Keane said. "And that is exactly what he is saying to me now: You can do this, Judy.''
©2001 MyWay Corp.