Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Goodrichs, who lost son in 9-11 attacks, attending dedication of Afghan school after benefit film debut at Williams College

By Bill Densmore Writer

The family of a 9-11 victim raised in Williamstown will be in Afghanistan on Saturday (April 15) for the dedication of a girls' school built with $236,000 from the Peter M. Goodrich Memorial Foundation.

Approximately 70 people turned out on Tuesday night for the regional premier of a 106-minute Afghanistan documentary, Kabul Transit, shot by Williams College Anthropology Prof. David Edwards and a collaborator, Gregory Whitmore (Williams 1998). Donations of close to $1,000 from the benefit screening will be used to construct a playground for the 16-classroom, 520-student school in Surkh Abat, 30 miles south of Kabul in Logar province.

Peter Goodrich died at age 33 aboard one of the planes flown by terrorists into a World Trade Center tower. His mother, Sally, a Title I reading specialist in the North Adams public schools, channeled her family's grief by undertaking a two-year-effort -- suggested by Peter's childhood Williamstown friend, U.S. Marine Maj. Rush Filson, whose duty took him to Afghanistan. On Tuesday, Goodrich and her daughter sat in the front row of a Wege Auditorium science lab at Williams for the screening of Kabul Transit which was first shown in complete form at a film festival in Durham, N.C. over the weekend.

The film, without narration, contrasts Afghanistan living conditions with those of U.S. and Canadian peacekeepers and ends with a retrospective look at the failed Russian occupation of the mountainous, third-world nation. Edwards, in comments after the just-finished film, said the Canadians were open to his cameras, while the U.S. Embassy and military forces imposed burdensome conditions. Edwards says his philosophy as a filmmaker -- he teaches film -- is to avoid offering any direct political message. But he says he was struck that the Soviets -- who left Afghanistan in 1989 after punishing casualties over many years -- were trying to "protect scientific socialism" at a time when socialism was failing at home. "We wanted to make a film which was, in a sense, about the last Soviet city."

The film depicts jobless but spirited Afghanis living in a city with sporadic electricity, a handful of police for a 550,000-resident district, open sewers running down steep, rutted stone streets, and block-after-block of buildings bombed to rubble. Meanwhile, an officer at a Canadian peacekeepers' walled barracks gives a guided tour, describing six choices of fruit for breakfast, cappucinos, computer games, golf and enforced cleanliness. In the film, a French-accented volunteer teacher says of the children around her: "They just want care, respect, freedom . . . and love."

Peter Goodrich's father, Donald, a North Adams attorney, serves as chairman of The Goodrich's now live in Bennington, Vt. The school building was finished in December, but the dedication is Saturday.


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