Relative revenge: 11 examples of Abaaoud-style vengeance after 9/11

Former US President George W Bush. © Jason Reed
The teenage brother of Paris attack “mastermind” Abdelhamid Abaaoud has reportedly left Syria to “avenge” his death, but while this new information is portrayed as a threat, the same was not the case for those vengeful relatives of 9/11 victims who joined the US military and took it out mostly on Muslims on the other side of the world.

READ MORE: Paris attacker Abaaoud’s teenage brother may be in Europe plotting revenge – reports

Following the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001, relatives seeking revenge was often portrayed as an act of patriotism - with more killing considered a valid way to honor those already killed.

READ MORE: Evidence of US war crimes in Iraq recorded by 100s of organizations

1. George Walker from Savannah, Georgia enrolled after his uncle was killed during the World Trade Center attacks.

2. Army Sgt. Edwin Morales, photographed during the 2015 service at the World Trade Center memorial, says he joined because his firefighter cousin Ruben "Dave" Correa was killed.

3. Stuart Gaskins didn’t know for hours if his father was alive in the Pentagon after it was attacked on his 15th birthday, but he told AP “9/11 changed my mindset. It changed something inside of me. It made me want to fight for my country. We all became vulnerable. It became real.” He became a Marine after being “kind of a pacifist” in his early teens.

4. Mother and soldier Lisa M. Van Wormer enlisted after 9/11 out of patriotism. “As the twin towers burned and collapsed to the ground, the rules of my safe, naïve life changed. And when the ash settled over more than 3,000 lost lives, I had to move. To do... something,” she wrote on HuffPo. That “something” was being assigned to Iraq, a country that had nothing to do with 9/11.

5. A double dose of revenge came from twin brothers James and Nick Tomecek, who joined the Marine Corps and trained together, saying they wanted to defend the US after 9/11. Similarly, identical twins Christian and Ivan Bengtson were in their senior year of high school when the twin towers fell and decided to enlist by 2002. Ivan was seriously injured in Afghanistan a few years later and required 10 operations to fix his face, but he has no regrets.

6. Some people joined the US forces as way out of poverty. Bonnie Velez enlisted in the navy because of the benefits despite having no interest in going to war. By the time 9/11 happened, she decided to keep her commitment to the Navy. After leaving the service in 2007, the country failed in its commitment to her when she found herself jobless and homeless, even though she told the New York Times her experience gave her “courage.”

7. After seeing his mother cry on the morning of 9/11, Evan Bozajian decided that it was time to enlist and was sent to Iraq in 2004. He was wounded by a roadside bomb in 2005 and now struggles with memory loss and back pain from his injuries, but is still glad he served. Nowadays, he wants people to be less concerned with “Escalades and big-screen TVs” and appreciate what they have.

© Evan Steven Bozajian

8. Ex-NFL football star Pat Tillman gave up his multi-million dollar football career and joined the army in June 2002, only to be killed by one of his own during a “friendly fire” incident. The resulting cover-up by the Pentagon and Bush Administration prompted his father and brother to drop some F bombs, including on live TV, which was cited in a federal court case about “fleeting expletives”.

A photograph of former Arizona Cardinals player Pat Tillman sits on the team's 2004 NFL Draft desk at Madison Square Garden. © Mike Segar

9. Mark Stroman shot dead two men he believed were Arab in retaliation for 9/11. Ironically, Texas got its vengeance by executing him, despite an appeal from the lone survivor Rais Bhuiyan, originally from Bangladesh, who sued to stop the state-sanctioned killing because “his religious beliefs as a Muslim required him to forgive the man”, according to the Associated Press. His request was denied.

10. Boeing mechanic Frank Roque, 42, killed the Sikh owner of a gas station after he went out to “shoot some towel-heads” on 9/11, shouting “I stand for America all the way.” Hate crimes increased significantly against Arabs, Muslims, and Sikhs in the years after the attacks.

11. Perhaps the most famous act of revenge after 9/11 had nothing to do with the attacks. President George W Bush illegally invaded Iraq based on false intelligence and at least 500,000 civilians were killed. All because Saddam Hussein was the “guy that tried to kill my dad at one time,” said Bush.

12. Not all relatives of 9/11 victims or Americans were hungry for revenge. Phyllis Rodriguez, whose son Greg was killed in the World Trade Center attacks, famously wrote an open letter to President Bush asking him not to execute the 20th hijacker, Zacarias Moussaoui, and not to use the war on terror in her son’s name. Relatives of other victims, moved by each other’s letters urging non-violence, formed the group September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, based on the Martin Luther King statement “Wars are poor chisels for carving out peaceful tomorrows.”

Aicha El-Wafi and Phyllis Rodriguez (R). © Arnd Wiegmann