Grief Leads 9/11 Families in Opposite Directions

Jim Riches and Donna Marsh O'Connor
For the families of September 11 victims, every anniversary brings pain. But this year, the politically charged fight over the proposed site of an Islamic cultural center and mosque is bringing new heartache - and division, reports CBS News correspondent Elaine Quijano.

Jim Riches and Donna Marsh O'Connor share a terrible bond. Riches, a retired New York City firefighter, lost his son Jimmy, also a firefighter, in the 2001 attacks.

"We carried his body out March 25, 2002," said Riches. "We go back there to the same spot where he breathed his last breath."

Complete Coverage: 9/11 Nine Years Later

Donna Marsh O'Connor understands that anguish. Her daughter, Vanessa, was 4 months pregnant when she was killed in the attacks.

"I honor 9/11 families and their pain," said Marsh O'Connor. "I feel it all the time."

But their grief has taken them in opposite directions. After attending the commemoration service at ground zero, Riches plans to speak at a rally two blocks away, to protest the proposed Islamic cultural center and mosque.

"I feel that my son can speak for himself and that I have to speak out for him, and that it's coming too close," said Riches. "We have to let America know and everyone know peacefully in the right way that we would like the mosque moved somewhere else."

But Donna Marsh O'Connor plans to stay home. Though she supports others' right to demonstrate. She believes moving the Islamic center would strike a major blow to religious tolerance in the U.S.

"I don't want to live in an Islamphobic America," said Marsh O'Connor. "I am not afraid of my neighbor and I don't want to be afraid of my neighbors and you are harming my children by making America more hateful than it is compassionate."