Helping Another Widow

Those of us who are widows  understand the plight of being alone, raising children and earning an income to support our families. This is universal to all widows and I want to share how two widowed women in the US gained strength through their own loss to help the widows in Afghanistan.   With courage and determination the started Beyond The 11th.

Susan Retik and Patti Quigley were both widowed on 9/11. Patti was eight months pregnant with her second child when her husband Patrick was killed while traveling on United Flight 175. Susan was seven months pregnant with her third child when her husband David was killed on American Flight 11.

The two women, both residents of Boston-area suburbs, met for the first time several months after September 11th. Their unwitting sisterhood created a strong bond. It was a relief for each woman to have a friend who understood her experience, when no other friend or family member could fully comprehend the bittersweet emotion of giving birth to a baby who would never know her father.

As Susan came to terms with her new life and followed media coverage about Afghanistan, she felt a connection to the vast number of Afghan widows. But this kinship was complicated. Susan couldn’t help but observe that widows in Afghanistan had none of the support that she and Patti experienced as “9/11 widows.” Decades of conflict had ravaged Afghanistan, leaving hundreds of thousands of women without husbands — a cultural necessity for Afghans — or basic resources. In many cases, Afghan widows had no means to feed, clothe, or shelter their children. Their situation was desperate.

Susan felt that the generosity she had received brought with it a responsibility. She wanted to use her new voice and platform to do something tangible. If she could change the life of just one Afghan widow, she would encourage dialog and friendship, and perhaps somehow begin to understand her own loss. Susan talked to Patti about her idea and within a matter of weeks the two began working to turn the shared vision into reality. In 2003, Beyond the 11th was officially founded. Soon their efforts in Afghanistan reached well beyond a single widow — ultimately changing the lives of hundreds of women.

In 2006, Susan and Patti travelled to Afghanistan to meet their Afghan counterparts and see firsthand the work of Beyond the 11th. Their journey was documented in the award-winning film Beyond Belief.


By the Numbers:

  • There are 1 million widows in Afghanistan
  • Women headed households earn an average of $16/month compared to $48/month for men
  • Afghanistan is ranked 181 out of 182 on Human Development Report


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