Sister Dorothy Marie Hennessey wasn't certain she would be ready for all that awaits her when she reports Tuesday to the federal prison in Pekin, Ill.
But the 88-year-old Catholic nun said she had no regrets about the November protest at Fort Benning that resulted in a six-month prison sentence. Hennessey, her 69-year-old sister, Gwendolyn ‹ also a nun ‹ and eight other women convicted of trespassing during the SOA Watch protest of the former U.S. Army School of the Americas have been assigned to the Pekin prison.
"I really don't know what to expect," Dorothy Hennessey said in a telephone interview from the convent where the Order of Saint Francis nuns are quartered in Dubuque, Iowa. "I've been told all we can take with us is our glasses."
But she said she looks on the six-month prison stay as "just another assignment" in her mission to serve.
Sisters Dorothy and Gwendolyn already have been the focus of national attention following the convictions of 26 protesters by U.S. Magistrate Judge G. Mallon Faircloth in Columbus on May 23. The two sibling nuns were the object of articles in many newspapers, including The New York Times, and were on ABC's ''Good Morning America'' program two weeks ago.
They'll be the focus again on Tuesday, when NBC and magazine and newspaper publications are expected to follow the group's caravan to the Pekin prison, a four-hour ride from Dubuque. The protesters will take advantage of the opportunity to again make their protest points during a news conference outside the prison moments before they surrender to prison authorities.
Joining the sisters, who each will serve six months, will be: Mary Lou Benson, 56, of Brainerd, Minn., six months; Rachel Hayward, 19, of Negaunee, Mich., six months; Rita Hohenshell, 76, of Des Moines, Iowa, three months; Rebecca Kanner, 43, of Ann Arbor, Mich., six months; Hazel Tulecke, 77, of Yellow Springs, Ohio, three months; and Mary Vaughan, 68, of White Bear Lake, Minn., six months.
Other protesters sentenced to prison for trespassing on Fort Benning have been assigned by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons to institutions near their home states, as requested by the individuals. Each will be allowed to surrender at the assigned prison.
Three protesters chose to begin their prison sentences on May 23, and were held in the Muscogee County Jail until transferred to federal prisons.
The protesters, previously barred from Fort Benning property, were among more than 3,400 who crossed onto the military post Benning during the May 23 protest. SOA Watch annually organizes the event to urge closing of the School of the Americas, citing some graduates' participation in human rights abuses in Latin America.
The school was closed last fall, reopening in January as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. It is operated by the U.S. Department of Defense and has a revised curriculum, training program and mission.
Aug. 5, 2001 SISTERS GET WARM WELCOME IN PRISON
When 24 protesters convicted of trespassing at Fort Benning were sentenced to prison in Columbus' U.S. District Court, 21 of them returned to their homes to await their federal prison assignments.
The protesters had taken part in a November demonstration against the former School of the Americas.
Among those prisoners-to-be were Dorothy Marie Hennessey, an 88-year-old Order of St. Francis nun from Dubuque, Iowa, and her 68-year-old sister, Gwen, also an OSF nun from Dubuque. Sister Dorothy Marie originally was sentenced to home confinement by U.S. Magistrate G. Mallon Faircloth, but she rejected any concession to her because of her age or the fact she was a nun.
"I would rather not be singled out for special treatment. I am not that much of an invalid," she told the judge. "I would just as soon have however much (prison time) as the rest of them are getting."
Her sentence was revised to six months in prison, the same as her sister, Gwen, and 19 other protesters.
On July 18, nine of those SOA protesters reported to the federal prison in Pekin, Ill., to begin serving their sentences.
The two sisters were asked to keep diaries of their prison experiences and to share those with the people in this community, as well as the religious community where they lived and worshipped in Dubuque.
Inside are excerpts of the sisters' diary entries, which will be published in the Ledger-Enquirer from time to time.
Wednesday July 18
Gwen Hennessey: We spent the entire day at admissions ‹ processing, TB test, prison-issue clothing. Several women talked to us, we filled out lots of papers, met counselors, etc. . . . We have two buildings ‹ Kansas and Nebraska. We may only enter the one building assigned to us.
. . . We do have outdoor space and non-regulation clothes. The inmates are so welcoming and tend to our needs. They thought all of us were religious women. We were invited to a prayer group at 8:30 p.m. on the huge double basketball court. Seventy women of the 200 showed up. Powerful witness: "I cried and cried and called my mom to get me out of here. Today I lead aerobics class and love all of you." Another person read Matthew 25.
. . . The night was long and cold, with a snore orchestra out of tune. Rising was at 5:30 a.m., breakfast at 6 and inspection at 7:30. (Our alley got demerits for things on the windowsill.)
. . . En route to the track, we met an inmate who had given me two sets of cut-offs and warm thermos and sweats. Her story is unbelievable. Her parents are raising her kids due to her drug habit. She has such faith and hope of being reunited. Her family only comes (8 hours away) three times a year. She takes full blame for her mistake.
. . . Some of our new vocabulary ‹ all loud and clear over the speaker: "Last call for main line" ‹ cafeteria; "Count" ‹ 10 p.m., 12 a.m., 3 a.m., 5 a.m., 4 p.m. (very serious); "Stand-up count" ‹ (very serious); "Report to R&D" ‹ receiving and discharge.
. . . None of the guards wear guns. The inmates take over many areas laundry, library, kitchen, etc. Now I understand why one of the visiting ex-offenders, while visiting the Sacred Heart convent in Dubuque, said, "I can't take this, the largeness and the spit-shine on the floors, etc. It takes me back to prison."
Dorothy Hennessey: Gwen tells me that I fell asleep with my glasses on last night. The day-long media calls, the glorious candlelight ceremony, the caravan to Pekin, the flashing cameras and the hugs of the final "sending-in" all these had been inspiring and exhausting.
The welcome into Pekin prison was warming, too. Inmates flocked in to offer us help in getting to places or filling our needs. Officials looked for shoes that weren't too heavy to walk in. Meds were labeled and ready this morning. We've had oranges and salad bar at meals, no worry about an unpleasant diet. As for prayer, about 80 people were at the 8:30 p.m. circle last night and Mass will be offered tomorrow and each Thursday noon. The Greek Orthodox chaplain was at rosary tonight and will lend me his Ellsberg ALL SAINTS tomorrow.
. . . Wish you could hear the singing going on in our "pod." We just came back from the nightly circle of prayer, marveling at how the group of women carry on the spontaneous praying each night.
Thursday July 19
Gwen Hennessey: Last night was good sleeping with a pajama and thermo top. The early morning count with flashlight awakened me. We need to be at breakfast at 6 a.m. if we want coffee and milk for the day. The only other time 2 percent and skim milk are offered is when the next-door "max for men" is in lock-down. The milk is ours at that time, so it doesn't go to waste.
. . . Just got a loud-blast page to go to Receiving and Discharge. Was met by two officers. They had a first-class letter addressed to the Hennessey sisters. The letter had to be returned to a family member to open and return under only one name. . . . One must write to Dorothy or me. Just after I walked back, all nine of us were called again via the Public Address. The counselor from the Nebraska unit referred to our gathering last night a singing by the gym group meeting. This must go through the chaplain. And we cannot have a meeting with a chair. I felt like I was back in the novitiate again, with all the rules.
Sunday July 22
Dorothy Hennessey: This is a weekend ‹ no mail in or out, so time to catch up. We are waiting for the 10 a.m. check of our presence in our pod. Everything must be neat looking. In the Monday and Friday noon sessions, we must wear our uniform.
One of our group will never forget her 20th birthday (in prison). She was the center of attention all day yesterday. Of course, no birthday cake or ice cream, but lovely cards, handmade presents, many tokens of caring.
. . . Friday, we were waiting outside for the dinner call, so I decided to dart over to chapel to get the Lutheran minister's address of the Lutheran Holden Village. (Our pro bono lawyer is there on sabbatical for a year.) I got called back for a "violation"!
After dinner today we're going to Russian Orthodox service, followed by a communion service let by Sister Pat. Yesterday, it was a part of the Torah for Sabbath, directed by Rebecca. The American Indians are happy that a sweat lodge is in the future. And we do have a Catholic Mass on Thursday noons. (Peoria diocese.) Don't think I'm in danger of losing my faith; I'm just getting more ecumenical.
. . . If you want to do something to relieve suffering, try to get that cruel minimum sentence law changed. (Anybody who touched drugs has to stay here at least 10 years, even though they are soon rehabilitated. And their babies grow up without them.) The people here are generally good. And the guards and administration have to watch their jobs, which are hard to get in this place. "It's the dirty rotten system that needs to be changed," as Dorothy Day said.
There's a suspicion that some of us might be planning to start some kind of "riot." But after a while, when they get convinced of our nonviolence, we think they'll find us just boring! Monday July 23
Gwen Hennessey: At 8:45 a.m. a male guard entered unannounced and went from space to space and told several in our Kansas 200 Alley to get up from bed. This alley has 32 beds. Many are empty. Mary, Dorothy and I sleep here. The cement block partitions are as tall as I am, no doors, just six feet of open space between cement-block partition walls. Quite homey for a prison!
. . . There was another public address blast telling us SOA 9 plus three other new inmates to come to the Education offices. Ms. McNeil was just back from vacation and wanted to orient us. One needs to be here a year to get in on many classes. Looks like Spanish and psychology ‹ deals with domestic violence and drug treatment ‹ classes on Thursdays from 5:30-7 p.m. are open. We also learned that "Census Count" is a surprise, lock-down, stay-where-you are count. Our vocabulary increased daily.
Monday-Tuesday July 23-24
Dorothy Hennessey: Loads of letters came tonight! Great support, even from those we don't know and others who just rediscovered us. We've been here a week now, and tomorrow is crammed full with orientation and physicals. We keep looking at the bulletin board to find out where to go. There's still a big circle of people coming out at 8:30 nightly to pray. It's good to be part of it, unless they spend too long on the devil. Tonight, they honored the latest nine of us with a prayer in Spanish.
There is some difficulty about getting to be a visitor. . . . There are so many who might want to visit here that we can't put all their names in ahead of time so they can get checked out for felonies and other "bad" background.
I think I have to cut this short the 10 p.m. checkers will be coming through and lights go out at 10:30. I appreciate the prayers, letters, all the support.
Sept. 9, 2001 SISTERS REMAIN UPBEAT WHILE IN PRISON
Sisters Dorothy Hennessey, 88, and Gwen Hennessey, 68, have been serving a six-month federal prison sentence since July 18 for trespassing on the Fort Benning Military Reservation during a November protest against the School of the Americas.
Both are nuns from the Order of St. Francis in Dubuque, Iowa, and have agreed to keep journals of their time at the Pekin, Ill., federal prison.
On Aug. 31, five days after the Aug. 26 publication of their latest entries, Sister Dorothy Marie Hennessey was transferred from the Pekin prison to the Elm St. Correctional Facility in Dubuque. "The Dubuque Telegraph Herald" reported that prison officials decided the Pekin prison was unable to meet the medical needs of the elderly nun. Under the new arrangement, the nun who has served 70 years with her order will be allowed to visit the convent that was her home before her incarceration.
Sister Gwen Hennessey remains in Pekin prison.
Following are the latest excerpts from the sisters' diary entries prior to the Aug. 31 transfer of the elder sister:
Gwen Hennessey: Just finished two miles on the track and found my coveted space for quiet time. . . . (SOA demonstrator Rachel Hayward) just got back from a visit today with her boyfriend. She said from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. she had only candy bars from the vending machine.
I'm trying to rack my brain to try to remember my first demonstration for the Chicago Tribune reporter. In bed, I remembered marching with Dr. King in the '60s, because a new factory was being built in Antioch, Ill., and African-Americans were not allowed to live in that village. At this rally the police stood in riot gear with steel-cold eyes, shoulder to shoulder and shouted at us.
Gwen Hennessey: This is the day we remember our corporate sin — the A-Bomb and its devastation. A holocaust of our Japanese brothers and sisters. Today, as we were walking through the compound with Mr. Engel, the executive assistant to the warden, he told the reporters from the Chicago Tribune what this prison used to be. When they say Pekin is 4 years old, that means for women. The walls in the cubicle areas were once only 3 feet high, and you can see the added cement blocks where urinals used to be. Also explains why there are the horseshoes, gym, handball court, etc.
A mother of a 9-year-old told me her husband fathered a dozen kids while she was in prison — none by the same woman. And he pays no child support. Who should be in prison?
Dorothy Hennessey: (Today is the anniversary of the day) three religious communities were obliterated in a moment when we dropped the bomb on Japan's Catholic stronghold in 1945! We knew Japan wanted peace, but we had to play with our new toy a second time. If we could only say now: "Never again!"
. . . We haven't had any visitors yet. "Just stopping by" won't let anybody in. First people must send in an application, which we send out. Then FCI investigates for felonies, then they can come (weekends) ‹ not more than five at a time.
Gwen Hennessey: A million thanks for all your cards of support. My bulletin board is beautiful! Yes, we feel the power of solidarity. More power, to you, Joyce, for your letter to the editor of the Telegraph Herald regarding the closing of SOA. I expect all the rest of you are still pushing for cutting funds for the school!
Just got called to the administration building. I'm in my T-shirt, shorts and tennis shoes. I wait and wait from 1:20-1:40. Mr. Engel comes out and says, "The local press wants to talk to you. Go back and get into your 'greens' and boots." I asked myself why go since three of the SOA 9 had been meeting with local TV since 1:00. Not having a clue to what was already said and because Dot, Betty and Rachel were very capable, I said I'd pass.
Mr. Engel delayed 10 p.m. count so we could see Dot, Rachel and Sister Betty (McKenzie) on TV. It was top billing, great shots, well-spoken and our bed (cubicle) was shot for the second time.
. . . We received inspiring letters from three of the men who are our co-defendants. We are just not getting their prison addresses, but we cannot write from prison to prison.
Gwen Hennessey: Just sent a note off to John Dear, SJ. He will be our Catholic Peace Ministry keynoter in February for the Bishop Maurice J. Dingman fund-raiser in Des Moines. He lives with Daniel Berrigan and Scott Nash in New York City. John was a prisoner of conscience for eight months: "The whole experience was a real blessing for me, a sharing in the Paschal Mystery of Jesus. What more could we ask for?"
Dorothy Hennessey: To answer a few questions first:
Yes, if you REALLY plan to come, ask for a visitor's permit. Send it back to show you are NOT a felon and to get approval. A permit for one sibling gives permission for the other.
No, do not bring ANYTHING, not even a staple remover. You'd only have to carry it back again.
Yes, Gwen and I share the same 9-by-10-foot cubicle. Gwen cleans it and washes my clothes with hers.
No, don't send stamps. There might be drugs on the back of them. (I just bought $20.40 worth at the commissary, which is the limit for each time).
No, you don't need to write separate letters to us. We share.
Josh, one of the younger of the SOA 26, has asked that people write a letter to a congressman or senator instead of to him. That way our goal of no more School of Assassins will be reached!
(When writing) to any of the legislators, you might say what I'm finding here — that the 10-year mandated sentence for first drug offenders is intolerable. Women suffer for years from separation from their little ones growing up: "Mommy, when are you coming home?" (If there is a home.)
The conspiracy law is bringing so many here. For example, if you know your husband or boyfriend is doing drugs and don't report him. Fear of drugs has replaced fear of Communism. The wrong people are punished, not the drug kingpins making the money!
Gwen Hennessey: Happy St. Clare! My first day off work! Spent most of the day listening to stories. One cannot imagine what loads some women have to carry. Later in the day we heard that M.L.'s daughter, six months pregnant, was murdered. M.L.'s wailing helped her deal with the agony. She was put in a wheelchair and many of us inmates spent time with her. Last night in our prayer circle, from her wheelchair she belted out a spiritual in praise of God. Going home for a funeral is a whole other agony. The family of the inmate pays double for an accompanying officer.
Dorothy Hennessey: Yesterday I walked across campus with a young woman whose 18-month-old baby is brought to visit her once a month. But it's so sad for her because the little girl is frightened and wiggles out of her arms, knowing it's her mother, but not comprehending what "Mom" means. (It's that conspiracy law again, when two people say you knew about some wrongdoing and failed to report it. No evidence needed.) Others say, "Prison saved my life and now I'm rehabilitated, but I'm sentenced to stay a whole ten years."
Gwen Hennessey: It's a beautiful cool morning. The killdeer (birds) were running around in their prison-stripe vests like the chain gangs . . . A new woman came in late yesterday as scared of the unknown as we were. She also did self-surrender. We also learned that one of our co-defendants (Martha Hayward) will get to visit her daughter, Rachel , but not her twin sister, Mary (Benson), at the same time. I hope that gets changed.
Gwen Hennessey: Some of the men at FCI had a fight, so we had "lockdown" until 6 p.m. We workers got to short line shortly after 3 p.m. so we waited and waited. I'm not sure it was worth 12 cents an hour. Our head kitchen officer told us stories of his Greek background. He is relatively young with a Greek accent. He, his wife and two kids are Greek Orthodox, but go to the Catholic Church due to the distance of the Greek one.
Sept. 30, 2001 SPIRITS REMAIN HIGH DESPITE SEPARATION
Sisters Dorothy Hennessey, 88, and Gwen Hennessey, 68, were among 26 protesters sentenced to prison terms for trespassing on the Fort Benning Military Reservation in November while demonstrating against the School of the Americas.
The two nuns, both in the Order of St. Francis in Dubuque, Iowa, have agreed to keep journals during their six-month prison sentences. Both were originally sent to Pekin, Ill., Federal Prison on July 18, but Dorothy Hennessey was transferred to a Dubuque facility on Aug. 31.
Following are the most recent excerpts received from their journal entries, highlighting their experiences in the federal prison.
Gwen Hennessey: We are finished with cleanup in the dining room, and now it is time to fill in time until 3:15 short line. As of today, all of us SOA 10 have a job except Miriam, who just arrived Aug. 10. Nine of us are now wage earners at 12 cents an hour. (Like Welfare to Work without a sustainable income.)
Gwen Hennessey: It's 10:30 a.m. now, and I just finished an EKG with a nurse practitioner. Everything normal. Still need blood work at 6 a.m., a chest X-ray and a mammogram. I had time to read the new CA/Mexico Report, July 2001 (all the SOA 26 got one) about Bishop Gerardi, "Who killed Sister Barbara Ford?" and "The Life and Legacy of Joe Moakley." It made me cry. The report on us, the SOA 26, says total prison time is 11 years, 7 months, and total fines are $11,650.
Gwen Hennessey: It's 12:40 p.m., and I've just finished "spring" cleaning in our cubicle ‹ scrubbing, covering every inch, even the window, and waxing and buffing with the electric buffer, which is bigger than any I've used . . . Cleaning inspection is used to motivate us inmates. Our reward: Being first in line at commissary.
Gwen Hennessey: So many of you have written about sending stamps and writing materials. All sent were returned with a letter from the warden. Also, we can only keep five paperback books. Many of the letters indicate folks are going to stand witness at the November commemoration of the murders by SOA grads of the Jesuits, their cook and her daughter. Hotels will be hard to come by. My first year, a group of us stayed in Phenix City. It's close: just like Dubuque and East Dubuque.
Eight women from the Nebraska Unit were hauled off to county jail this a.m. for fighting. Quite traumatic! One inmate had just arrived last week (older woman). The women ranged in size from 300 pounds to 98 pounds. Sounded like a racial war of words. When this was happening (shake-down), Dorothy, Betty and I were in the administration building waiting for the (Associated Press) reporter and photographer, Jay Hughes and Mark Stohl. When we were paged, the women thought we were being shipped out, too.
The biggest miracle of the 39 days is that last night Mr. Olds met with 26 women for smoking cessation classes! One woman told me she robbed her family of eight years by her mistake. She figures if she quits smoking, it will give her another 10 years with her family. She said that in her beautiful American Indian accent.
Gwen Hennessey: A new woman in our alley has been sick for three days. Can keep nothing down. The first night they took her to the hospital and brought her back. She received a paper saying she has four days sick leave. Today she is covered with red spots and her ear area is swollen. They finally took her back to the hospital. One of the women across the hall gets to go back to court tomorrow. We all remember her in our prayer circle.
Dorothy Hennessey: At work each morning I sit near an older woman ‹ not older than me ‹ and another African-American woman who helps me with my folding napkins. It's not her assigned job, just her volunteer work. Anyway, this morning Mrs. X told me that her grandmother used to tell her stories about her life as a slave. (Grandma lived to be 110, so there was plenty of time to tell the little granddaughter about her life.) ''Mary,'' (not her real name) was put on a stump at age 10 and auctioned off after winning a race with the other children. She never saw her mother, father or the rest of her family again. I was fascinated by the story, and I'll find out more as we fold more napkins.
Our food budget is $2.30 for a total of three daily meals for each of us, so I'm glad to do my daily easy job to save money. The cooks work hard to make our food taste good, and the supervisors are really pleasant bosses!
A new girl, hardly out of her teens, looked sad this morning, so I stopped to talk to her. She had never been in prison before, and she got nearly 20 years for being a passenger in a car that was found to have drugs in it. She is unmarried, has no children and says that now she'll ''probably never have a chance to have any.''
I marvel at the lack of racism here. We have two-thirds white and one-third African-American and a number of Hispanics that don't seem to be counted in either group. They tell me that a few years ago there was a series of KKK protests about the prison to be built because people were afraid blacks would get official positions. Well, a number of them have, and seem to be doing well! I wish we could have the same inclusiveness outside.
Gwen Hennessey: We are waiting outside to be called to main line to lunch. The PA yelled, "Lock down!" Everyone out of the unit. Two women made a mad dash to take care of ''something'' in their cubicle, but a supervisor was guarding the door from inside. For over an hour everyone was locked out and a huge dumpster was wheeled over to our Kansas Unit. We found out that F. and M. were shipped out to a Colorado jail. M.'s family had brought in contraband — $100 tennis shoes, cosmetics and oodles of food — and F. was rescuing it from the dumpster for her. (M. had ordered the NY Times for the library.) F. had only 4 months left, and M.'s term was 14 months. It is so sad.
Gwen Hennessey: Dorothy and I were called to Ms. C's office yesterday. The regional office and the central office had denied Dorothy's compassionate release, but she had arranged for her to go to the Community Correction Center in Dubuque. It was effective right now. I packed her things after about six trips back and forth to the Administration building. Dot did more than her time at the Fed Club for 46 days. She leaves a hole behind, but we all know the Pekin Feds made a good decision.
By 9 a.m. Ms. M. and Dot were en route to FCI to pick up her money and head for the correctional center in Dubuque. No press allowed. It would have been a bad time for everyone. Ms. C. offered Dot to call over anyone she wanted to say goodbye to. She chose not to.
Gwen Hennessey: The guns are sounding all around us. Goose season opens today. One of the guys, a young guard, is so excited. This evening Karen asked to move into my cubicle. She is still suffering, as we all are, the aftershock of M. and F.'s fate. Karen has till June and wants to stay out of trouble. Think I'm a good gamble with my record!?!? She thought I might want to move in with Miriam across the hall, whose cube mate leaves this week for Des Moines. (M. sleeps nine hours and more a day.) In that cube I might disturb the peace!
Gwen Hennessey: Another day of surprise leavings: Three more from the Nebraska Unit to county jail. It will be a rough time for them 'til they go to another Club Fed. We have two new older women in Kansas Unit plus a younger wild one who has moved from one cube to another already.
Gwen Hennessey: All of us SOA 9 received a signed letter in an Indian language and Spanish and English from the Mayan Catholic lay pastor-educators in rural Guatemala. Part of the letter read ''. . . to thank you one and all for risking imprisonment by your protest to close down the SOA at Fort Benning in November 2000.
''There is no need to remind us how U.S. foreign policy toward Central America has caused so much sorrow for this parish in the past and continues in the present ‹ if the charges being brought against other SOA graduates for their participation in the death of our former bishop, the beloved Juan Gerardi, prove true. And just as the sacrifice made by our beloved Oscar Romero resisting 'military solutions' has borne fruit for his people, your choosing to do penance for the sins of your Congress and government will surely be accepted by the Lord for the redemption of all. May the merciful Lord bless those who seek a better world with justice." (Signed by many from Izabala Tux, age 18 to Eng. F. age 57) So touching.
Gwen Hennessey: Ms. Cally stopped at noon, as part of the lunch patrol, to tell me that Dot insisted on walking to Mount St. Francis Convent, 1 1/2 miles away. It is good to know that the powers that be care. Thanks to all of you for letting me know how Dot is and what she perceives as to why she left Pekin.
Dorothy, even Mr. S. asked about you. Now he is into picking on Miriam. He wrote her up for not having her bed made when he had just talked to her in the laundry. She was livid. And life goes on.
Oct. 14, 2007 SISTER FEARS NATION'S NEXT STEP IN TERRORIST ATTACK
When terrorists crashed airliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, Gwen Hennessey was exercising on the track at Pekin, Ill., Federal Prison.
The 68-year-old nun learned of the event from another inmate. She is serving a six-month prison sentence for trespassing on the Fort Benning Military Reservation during November demonstrations against the School of the Americas.
Hennessey and her 88-year-old sister, Dorothy Marie Hennessey, have been keeping journals since their imprisonment. Dorothy Marie Hennessey, however, was transferred Aug. 31 to a federal lockup near their Dubuque, Iowa, home at Mount St. Francis Convent. With her health improving, she may resume her journal soon.
Here are excerpts from the journal of Gwen Hennessey:
It was wonderful — full sunshine and cool on the track. I couldn't believe I had the space to myself. (Wondered if I forgot to go to something.) After a mile and a quarter, a woman joined me. She mentioned just hearing about the World Trade Center . . . When I got back to the Unit, I was shocked to hear of the planned effort to attack the Pentagon and the World Trade Center and who knows what else. How many lives have been violently snuffed out!
On the way to poetry class I learned . . . the camp is closed to outsiders due to the national crisis.
. . . No new cube mate, but then all of us are cube mates: no conversation is private. We discovered a few "operators" looking out for their own interests and their buddies.
Sister Marian Klostermann and I once visited her nephew, Paul, in a building next to the Twin Towers — the World Trade Center. Prayers for Paul, his family and all our Jesuit martyrs, their cook and her daughter and all involved. Star Wars shield would never have prevented this well-planned and orchestrated terrorism. Last night at our prayer circle many were crying thinking of the next step ‹ their loved ones' blood being shed to show our U.S. power and might and control.
While watching the reports on the terrorists I sat next to an elderly inmate who chewed and spit.
. . . We even have felt added security due to the terrorist violence. There was not a dry eye in the TV room when the little boy was talking about his dad, a window washer at the Trade Center. We had a surprise re-call and stand-up count at our cubicles when some of the men next door cheered at the picture of the crumbling tower.
Last night was our hour of solidarity with the rest of the prisoners of conscience. I shared Dorothy's new ventures, though most had heard it already. There were some heartaches dealing with personalities. Please pray for us.
It feels like George W's words that we'll "whip the terrorists" will mean an increase in the military budget, and SOA funding may be included.
. . . We pray that we as a nation can calm down and try to put the facts together. Since no one claims responsibility, we can wait and not send our young men and women to a blood bath. Last night in our prayer circle after a thousand "Father-Gods" and devil innuendos, our Quaker went to the center of the prayer circle and pleaded for a peaceful resolve.
. . . (Also) in today's mail was another from a law office in New Martinsville, West Virginia. Inside was a letter to George W. A pardon attorney was asking for Betty and me that the president "forthwith commute the sentences. If you did this on a Roman Catholic feastday, it would be seen as an act of compassion, which is the basis of my request. To continue their incarceration is, simply put, a form of sadism, the football analogy of which would be 'piling on'."
Woke up to a dense fog. It's like a ghost town and the huge sun looks like a full moon. The big blessing is to hear we have not started a war with the nebulous "enemy."
In poetry class, we — as a class — opted for the professor not to share her second set of information on war. She (Ms. McN., head of the education department) is an Air Force veteran. In seventh grade, she wanted to go into service. Around the library desk we had a good give-and-take on fighting terrorism with terrorism.