Sebastopol couple mourn niece lost on 9/11, oppose wars

Still grieving their niece who died on Flight 93, Sandra and Walt Bodley of Sebastopol remain opposed to the wars that followed 9/11.|

Sandra and Walt Bodley of Sebastopol still mourn the loss of their beloved niece on 9/11 and remain steadfast critics of the subsequent wars that lasted for two decades.

Deora Bodley, a 20-year-old Santa Clara University student, was on her way home to California when she became the youngest of the 40 passengers and crew members to die on Flight 93, the hijacked airliner that crashed in a western Pennsylvania field.

The episode is known as “the flight of heroes” because a handful of passengers stormed the cockpit and prevented the hijackers from reaching their presumed target: the U.S. Capitol.

The loss is deeply personal and political for the Bodleys, who were early members of a group called September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows.

Derrill Bodley, Deora’s father and Walt’s brother, a co-founder of the group that numbers more than 200 families, died in a motorcycle crash on Sept. 21, 2005, his 60th birthday.

“He didn’t want the U.S. waging war because of the death of his daughter,” said Sandra Bodley, 78, who taught nursing at Sonoma State University for 28 years and remains an active member of Peaceful Tomorrows. “He knew the people of Afghanistan were not responsible.”

After the initial U.S. aerial attack, Derrill Bodley went to Afghanistan “to tell Afghan parents that he was sorry for bombing and any of their losses,” she said.

Sarah and Walt, 81, a retired airline pilot, have visited the Flight 93 National Memorial near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. several times, including the 10th anniversary in 2011, when they saw Deora’s name on one of the 40 polished 8-foot-high white marble stones in the Wall of Names located beneath the doomed airliner’s path.

“It still felt very surreal,” Sandra Bodley said. “To have a young person die suddenly in an accident is a tragedy but to have our niece die in a national disaster seemed unreal for so long.”

“We never saw her graduate from college, marry or choose a career as our grandchildren have done,” she said. “So it just deepens our sense of loss of all her potential.”

The Bodleys plan a return to the memorial “at a quiet time” to savor its austere beauty. The impact site, regarded as “sacred ground,” Sandra Bodley said, is marked by a grove of hemlock trees and a 17.5-ton sandstone boulder.

It is closed to the public and accessible only to families of Flight 93’s passengers and crew.

The Peaceful Tomorrows group says it forecast the “ultimate tragedy” of the war authorized by President George W. Bush a week after the 9/11 attacks.

U.S. forces quickly ousted the Taliban from Kabul and put al-Qaida, the group responsible for the attacks, on the run. But the fundamentalist Taliban rebuilt itself and returned to power with minimal opposition as American troops departed Afghanistan last month.

“Once the Taliban fell, the war was touted as a success,” Peaceful Tomorrows said in a 2008 report asserting the conflict “entered a new phase of violence and decay.”

“The idea that more U.S. troops are the answer to Afghanistan’s woes is misguided. Rather than a military escalation, what is needed is a shift away from militarism toward diplomacy, aid and reconstruction,” the report said.

Teenaged Deora Bodley expressed a similar sentiment in her diary.

“People ask who, people ask what, people ask where, people ask why and people ask when. I ask peace.”

You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 707-521-5457 or On Twitter @guykovner.

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