Turning a Vision (and Grief) into Action

Turning a Vision (and Grief) into Action

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Carie Lemack was honored as an Ashoka ChangemakeHER, Changemakers's inaugural celebration of the world's most influentual and inspiring women. Find her fellow honorees' voices here.

by Evagelia Tavoulareas, Ashoka Changemakers

On September 10th, 2001 Carie Lemack was working in Boston and applying to business schools.  She had no experience in non-profit management – today she is co-founder of two non-profits. She had no experience in film production – today she is the Executive Producer of an Oscar-nominated film. In one decade, Carie Lemack accomplished more than many achieve in a lifetime.  But on September 10th, 2001 Carie was not working toward any of these achievements.

Then came September 11th – the day her mother was killed when the plane she was on was crashed into the World Trade Center.

Overcome by grief that most of us could never fathom, Carie sought comfort in creation. In the immediate aftermath of the attacks, she co-founded Families of September 11, and 7 years later she co-founded the Global Survivors Network (GSN). Since its founding in 2009, the Network has generated global attention, coordinated and inspired events around the world, and created an Oscar-nominated documentary tackling the taboo subject of terrorism.

"The voices and stories of victims and survivors are a poignant reminder of the real human costs of terrorism, and a compelling counter to the narrative of groups that target innocents to advance their goals."

The film, Killing in the Name, captures these voices and stories through the journey of Ashraf, a victim of the 2005 bombing of a wedding celebration in Jordan – his wedding.

The tagline of the film is fitting not only to the story itself, but also describes a factor of innovation:

"From unimaginable tragedy comes a mission."

Action, innovation and invention are triggered by awareness of a need.

The immediacy and intensity of the tragedy quickly propelled Carie from "awareness" of a need, to identify a solution, to global impact. Carie explains how she has maintained her momentum:

"I don't know exactly ... I just do. It's non-stop. When a need or opportunity arises, I can either take it, or not -- I find a way to make it happen."

Her mindset explains how she has managed to do all of this in under a decade. Carie was not experienced in grief counseling or psychology. She was not experienced in non-profit management. And she was certainly not trained in film production… but she learned all of these skills because she had to in order to respond to the needs she saw.  

In the end, her ultimate goal is to show the world that violence is never the answer, and to leave people in agreement that:

"No matter what your political beliefs, no one is OK with murder."

Simply saying "it takes serious determination to make your vision a reality" is an understatement – just look at Caries’ journey. Her success has been fueled by a desire to honor her mother, and bring some sense of justice to this world – and she has succeeded in doing both, beautifully.


Carie Lemack is co-founder of the Global Survivors Network, and Executive Producer of Killing in the Name.