‘Turning grief into compassion’: Winnipeg woman who lost partner in 9/11 quietly marks anniversary


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Three weeks before the anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks that killed her spouse Chris Egan, Ellen Judd was in a Guantanamo Bay courtroom sitting across from the alleged mastermind, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 11/09/2017 (2091 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Three weeks before the anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks that killed her spouse Chris Egan, Ellen Judd was in a Guantanamo Bay courtroom sitting across from the alleged mastermind, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

“I’d rather not talk about the people who did this today,” Judd said Monday from home where she was quietly marking the 9/11 anniversary of the dark day that claimed Egan.

In late August, Judd spent a week attending the U.S. military commission’s pretrial hearings for the five men accused of committing the worst terror attack on U.S. soil. She was among the loved ones of five 9/11 victims invited to face the five accused including the infamous Mohammed, whose hirsute image appeared in news stories around the world.

On Sept. 11, 2001, 2,976 people died, including 26 Canadians, when hijacked planes slammed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Egan was visiting her brother Michael on the 105th floor of the World Trade Center.

On the 16th anniversary of 9/11, Judd’s focus was on her loved one.

“Every year some people gather at a plaque for Chris at the Brodie Centre,” she said of the tribute to the nursing professor that’s located at the University of Manitoba campus at the Health Sciences Centre. “People gather to be with each other.” The plaque is dedicated to Egan: “clinician, researcher, teacher, humanitarian, friend.”

“What so many of us remember is her incredible vivacity and love of life,” said Judd, an anthropology professor at the University of Manitoba. “It’s something to cherish and it came through in everything – in the delight she took in the people around her and in the work she did.”

At this time of year, Judd said she looks forward to reviewing potential recipients for the scholarship fund in Egan’s memory.

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Ellen Judd at her home earlier this year.

The Dr. Christine Egan Memorial Scholarship Fund administered by the University of Manitoba is for nursing students in Nunavut – people and a place that Egan loved.

“We like to think we can carry on that work in helping her friends and their children in Nunavut to carry on caring for the health of their families and the people around them in their communities,” Judd said Monday. While the anniversary of 9/11 is a day she sets aside for honouring Egan, this year it happened not long after Judd faced Egan’s alleged murderers.

Since the U.S. military commission’s case began in 2011, close family members of the victims and some of the survivors have been invited to attend the proceedings in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to see what’s going on and to talk to the prosecution and defence teams involved.

Judd had been scheduled to go several times, but each trip was postponed by the commission for various reasons. The third week in August, the trip went ahead as planned. Judd talked about it in a post last week on the American Anthropological Association’s Anthropology News website.

“When I embarked on this voyage years ago it was with the intent of opposing the death penalty—a matter of not killing that seemed straightforward to me then, as it does now,” she wrote. “In the intervening years and as the process has extended into a sixth year of intense litigation, the stakes in the legal issues and in the larger search for justice and a reduction in the toll of war have more and more come into view.”

One news outlets covering the case that week reported that the prosecution and defence argued over procedural issues involving document declassification and the legality of the death penalty charges against the defendants, and the destruction, most likely between July 2014 and December 2015, of a CIA black site where at least one of the men was tortured.

At a press conference after court adjourned, Judd talked about the loss of her spouse and the issue of the death penalty:

“I felt inexpressibly deeply how terrible it is to take a human life for the last 16 years,” reported the online publication The Intercept. “Before then I was opposed to the death penalty, but I’ve understood its totality and its unfixability much more strongly since I’ve been closer to the taking of life,” Judd said. “I am unwilling to be part of an act of killing or to endorse it in any way.

“The taking of these lives would not give Chris another moment of life and would not give me any relief,” the soft-spoken professor said. “May this be a time for turning grief into compassion,” the news outlet reported her as saying.

“The most important thing to think about is Chris and everyone whose life remains at risk,” Judd told the Free Press Monday. “The most important thing is to be grateful for all this time we do have and to find a route that prevents this from happening to more people,” the avowed pacifist said.

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS The plaque for Christine Egan in the Basic Medical Sciences building on the University of Manitoba's Bannatyne campus.
Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Legislature reporter

After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.

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