Gregory E. Rodriguez: November 17, 1969 – September 11, 2001
In his office at Cantor Fitzgerald on the 103rd floor of the North Tower at the World Trade Center, Rodriguez proudly displayed a framed map of the locations of various shipwrecks located in the waters surrounding the New York Metropolitan area. He was known to get up around 4:30 a.m. on a weekend morning, grab his scuba gear and head out for a day-long diving expedition. It was a passion he pursued up to a week before his death on September 11, 2001.
Rodriguez grew up in Croton, graduating from Croton-Harmon High School in 1987. He was an all-American kid; he had a paper route, played in the school band, performed in school plays and was well-respected for his debating and storytelling abilities. His friends remember him as always having lots of energy. He was known as an environmentalist and an advocate for peace.
He married, Elizabeth Soudan, the love of his life and had a son, Silvio. He also left behind his mother Phyllis Rodriguez and her husband Orlando. The family resides in White Plains.
As testament to the peace-loving spirit of her son, Phyllis Rodriguez became an outspoken activist for World Peace, asking the United States not to go to war to avenge Greg’s death, stating in a letter sent to the Journal News only 12 days after September 11, 2001 that: “Our son died a victim of an inhuman ideology. Our actions should not serve the same purpose. Let us grieve. Let us reflect and pray.”
Phyllis has always been a pacifist, a position also carried by her son. She says that her beliefs were severely tested after September 11, but that now more than ever, she believes that violence and revenge are not answers; they merely perpetuate war.
In 2002, Aicha El-Wafi, the mother of convicted terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui, reached out to apologize to family members of 9/11 victims. Phyllis was one of the mothers who responded. The two have met several times, once during an emotional encounter at Memorial United Methodist Church in White Plains where the two shared their grief as parents.
Moussaoui was called the 20th terrorist, a conspirator in the 9/11 plot, and in 2006 was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Phyllis and her family are committed to counter what they term “Islamophobia,” a subject on which she has spoken often and locally.
Phyllis and Orlando are members of September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows. Phyllis is a steering committee member. The group consists of a core of 200 family members directly affected by loss on September 11th. On September 9, the group issued a statement asking for compassion to extend beyond 9/11 victims to commemorate the loss of loved ones. That statement ended with this sentiment: “The lesson of 9/11 is that we live in a connected world. We rise or fall together. As Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., said, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’ On this 10th anniversary, let us honor those we lost by recognizing our kinship with people all over the world, and affirming the values and principles that will guarantee peaceful tomorrows for everyone.”
– By Pat Casey
Adam has worked in the local news industry for the past two decades in Westchester County and the broader Hudson Valley. Read more from Adam’s author bio here.