- Founder of September 11th Families For Peaceful Tomorrows
See also: September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows
Raised in an Irish Catholic family, Colleen Kelly earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Scranton and a nursing degree from Columbia University. She went on to become a nurse practitioner and co-founded the Ita Ford Health Clinic, which offers free medical service to the poor in Harlem, New York.
On September 11, 2001, Ms. Kelly's brother, William, was killed in the al Qaeda terrorist attack against the World Trade Center in New York. Soon thereafter, Kelly joined with family members of other 9/11 victims and formed the organization September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows. As the group began to coalesce and gain members in 2002, Kelly quit her nursing job in order to devote herself full-time to Peaceful Tomorrows.
In August 2010, Kelly spoke out in favor of Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf's proposed construction of an Islamic mosque and cultural center near the site of Ground Zero in Manhattan. Rejecting the notion “that the religion of Islam is represented by 19 men who willfully drove planes into three buildings and a field on September 11th, murdering thousands,” she suggested that public opposition to the mosque project was largely due to “religious intolerance.”
In August 2011, Kelly was named as the winner of Pax Christi USA's Teacher of Peace Award. She was formally presented with this honor the following month at a Pax Christi-sponsored event titled “Peace and Reconciliation: Spiritual Reflections a Decade After 9/11.” The Rev. Jim Wallis made a special guest appearance at that gathering. Previous winners of the Pax Christi award included Dorothy Day, Daniel Berrigan, Thomas Gumbleton, Colman McCarthy, Helen Prejean, Roy Bourgeois, Martin Sheen, and Philip Berrigan.