From the Ashes

From the Ashes

On 9/11 Andrew Rice lost a brother and found a greater purpose.

By Ruani S. Freeman


 
"One day I'd like to meet Zacarias Moussaoui. I'd like to say to him, 'You can hate me and my brother as much as you like, but I want you to know that I loved your mother and I comforted her when she was crying.'"

Andrew Rice '96


The first time it hit him, in 1995, the destruction stopped close to his childhood home in Oklahoma City, at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. The second time, six years later and 1,454 miles away, it took his brother.

When he woke up on a clear September morning four years ago, Andrew Rice '96 was in Canada, covering the Toronto Film Festival for the BBC. Before lunch, with words and images that have now become the history of a nation—the planes, the towers, 9/11—his life changed.

"David worked for the investment firm Sandler O'Neill, and he had called my mother to tell her he was okay, the plane had hit the other tower. I walked into work and saw the second plane hit his tower. I turned and ran back to my hotel and got there just as the first tower collapsed. I screamed. I knew that David was dead.—

Andrew Rice's boss, Tom Brook, paid more than $1,500 for a taxicab to take Rice home to New York City, where his sister Amy also lived. When Rice arrived, he joined Richard Von Feldt, best friend to both brothers since childhood and best man at Andrew's wedding, in the search. By the night of September 13, Von Feldt had identified 31-year-old David Rice, one of only a dozen complete bodies to be found.

How does a 28-year-old filmmaker, enjoying his brother's company in New York after years apart in college and graduate school, cope with burying his brother in the glare of a national tragedy?

For Rice, the answer took the form of intense and varied public service.

From the moment he lost his brother, Rice plunged into re-examining his life and direction. When he left what Von Feldt calls "the coven of grief— that his friends and family had become, he did not walk into activism. He hurtled.

"Andrew saw what happened on 9/11 as a bridge to a higher purpose,— Von Feldt said, speaking from San Francisco. "Even before [9/11] there had been a restlessness in him a sense that he wasn't being true to his soul path. He had wanted to be a minister, but he grappled with what that meant. In a sense, what he has done with his life is taken on the mantle of ministry. It is just that his congregation is not in one place.—

Not only is it dispersed, it is varied and complex. Between September 2001 and today Rice has headed the Texas Freedom Network's (www.tfn.org) Fundamentalism Education Project to counter the influence of religious extremism in politics; joined the board of September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, an advocacy group nominated in successive years for the Nobel Peace Prize; launched the Red River Democracy Project, based on Chautauqua-style community festivals and designed to educate and engage Oklahomans in civic issues; served on the board of The People's Opinion Project; and founded the Progressive Alliance Foundation, of which he is the executive director, which works throughout Oklahoma to advance progressive, constitutional solutions to public policy problems.
 
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