You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Sun, Sep 11, 2011 : 5:59 a.m.

Losing Alicia: Dad who lost daughter in 9/11 attacks turns to writing to help understand the tragedy

By Janet Miller

When Alicia Titus, a flight attendant on United Airlines 175, died in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, her father turned to writing. It was a place to park his grief.

10th anniversary of 9/11

More in this series:

John Titus, who was living in Dexter Township at the time, wrote every day.

“It was a good release. Cathartic,” said Titus, who now splits his time between his Michigan home and a home outside of Dayton, Ohio.

“I had to process the confusing feelings. I wrote and I’d cry. I’d read what I wrote and cry. Then I would write some more and cry.”

He was trying to understand what was behind the Sept. 11 attacks.


Review of "Losing Alicia"

"This book isn’t the government or the media’s take on 9/11, it’s a father talking…with all the pain, eloquence and wisdom of a broken heart. For the real story of 9/11 -- the human story -- delve into Losing Alicia. If you read one book about 9/11, make it this one." - Marianne Williamson, New York Times best-selling author, international speaker.

“I was trying to understand a political system that let this happen. I was trying to understand why it wasn’t prevented. I was trying to understand why social injustice in the world will bred and perpetuate such violence against one another,” he said.

By the first anniversary of Alicia’s death, Titus had a substantial body of work. Friends encouraged him to publish it as a book.

“I had a lot of self-doubt. It was my own journal,” he said.

But he took it to a publisher, who made suggestions for revisions. As he began the re-writing process, it became too painful. “I was reliving 9/11 and all the grief and pain. It became too much and I had to put it down.”

He also had to balance it with his growing work with the peace and justice movement, and his day job at Schoolcraft College in Livonia as an administrator and mental health counselor.

The book sat on the back burner.

But as the 10th anniversary neared, Titus knew it was time to bring it back out. He retired in 2009 to have more time to work with the social justice movement.

And to write.

“It took me a couple of months to get back to an emotional state where I could work on it,” Titus said.

“Losing Alicia: A Father’s Journey After 9/11” was published through FriesenPress at the end of August. The goal for Titus was to connect the public with the human side of the attacks.

“I wanted to put a face on the pain and suffering of a family member, of losing a child to political violence in such a horrific manner,” he said.

He writes about the depth of the pain, the sadness, the sorrow and the feelings of depression, he said. “This wasn’t just normal grief.”

Titus has also been working to make a statement against the wars that have resulted because of the attacks.

“I knew more innocent people like Alicia would die. I did not believe I could be part of that,” he said.

Instead, he said, those responsible for the attacks should have been brought to justice through an international court of law.

So Titus became part of September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, a name that was borrowed from the Martin Luther King quote, “Wars are poor chisels for carving out peaceful tomorrows.” He and the organization have carried an anti-war, social justice message across the country.

“By striking back we are perpetuating the cycle of violence,” Titus said.

He has spoken around the country, Canada and in Italy, advocating peace. He’s spoken on college campuses and churches. He’s attended the American Muslim Voice Convention and the Department of Peace Conference. He attended the Alleati per la Pace conference in Riccione, Italy, and the Global Nonviolence Conference.

The 10-year anniversary puts the terrorist attacks back in the spotlight. It’s packed the days for Titus and his wife, Bev.

“All-day and evening events have been pretty much non-stop,” he said earlier this past week. He’s had at least 15 interviews from the news media and he’s attending events and services in and around Urbana University in Ohio, where he serves on the board.

A memorial honoring Alicia and those who lost their lives in the 9/11 attacks was built on Urbana’s campus, and includes a 16-foot section of one of the towers. On Sunday Titus will speak at a ceremony at the memorial and will attend a service earlier in the day about imaging peace. The day will be full.

Still, it’s all so tiring, Titus said. You never get used to losing a child. The emotions are not so far under the surface, not even 10 years later, he said. “You feel drained. But you just learn to live with it.”

“Losing Alicia: A Father’s Journey After 9/11” can be ordered through FriesenPress at It can also be ordered through



Tue, Sep 13, 2011 : 9:56 p.m.

The heavy military American involvement in Iraq that commenced in 2003 was pretextual. President George H. W. Bush in May of 1991 directed the Central Intelligence Agency to create a movement of Iraqi exiles that would assist in overthrowing the Saddam Hussein regime via overt and covert means. That movement involved the formation of the Iraqi National Congress. The INC was largely considered a failure despite years of being budgeted tens of millions of dollars per annum and the "Weapons of Mass Destruction" excuse which the INC's operatives fomented via faulty intelligence (e.g. "Curveball") gave George W. Bush the excuse he needed to topple Hussein in 2003. The Iraq war should have never happened. It was a political opportunity to advance U.S. hegemony. Mr. Titus is totally right in advocating peace and promoting justice in an international court of law. There is a tit-for-tat mentality of sovereign governments in addresing political violence never works - it leads to a vicious cycle of death and human suffering and of mutual hatred. The U.S. and Israel have, for sure, faced deadly terrorism, but have been poor promoters of prosecuting the wrongdoers in a fair tribunal. The response of Mr. Titus is the most constructive approach I have seen.


Mon, Sep 12, 2011 : 5:11 a.m.

Condolences for the loss of your daughter Alicia! She is very blessed to have you as her father as you are blessed with her as your daughter. Your peaceful endeavors are commendable, we all would like that if it were possible. Perhaps someday. You are evidence that no tragedy can displace love and hope for a better tomorrow.


Sun, Sep 11, 2011 : 11:51 p.m.

Oh, I can just imagine the comments that were deleted. Because Mr. Titus recognizes -- correctly -- that continuing the violence inevitably feeds upon itself, he was most likely attacked by the idiotic element that loves war (as long as THEY don't have to participate), hates peace (hey, how could we ever possibly function as a society without some enemy to blame everything on?), and somehow never developed any analytical thinking skills. (That would include, although it would not be limited to, knowing some history and being able to take a dispassionate and objective look at just why certain things might have happened.) Just a guess, anyway.


Tue, Sep 13, 2011 : 12:21 a.m.

Oh, indeed. "Bliss-ninny?" What a silly term. I won't even ask you to precisely define it, but I can tell that it's intended to be derogatory. (Since the censors allowed that one to stand, I'm assuming -- perhaps incorrectly -- that they'll also publish this one.) So how are those wars in Iraq and Afghanistan working out for ya? Thousands of lives lost and billions of dollars wasted. For -- exactly -- what?? Probably creating more terrorists than we can possibly kill. (Never mind the "collateral" casualties -- the civilians who, while previously probably not having an opinion one way or another regarding the USA, now hate us vehemently.) And -- like Mr. Titus, I hardly am detached from the entire 9/11 scene. I was a pilot for one of the airlines that was directly involved. (Retired now.) In fact, I had flown the 767 that went into the north tower on six different occasions. If you don't think THAT didn't hit home, then take another think. But I did not allow that to pull me into the morass of nationalistic sanctimoniousness and mindless jingoism that seems to have permeated our collective psyche. Since you have a doctorate in middle east stuff, you surely must know that U.S. meddling has made us a lot of enemies. Such as our involvement in Iran in the early 1950s, helping to install the hated Shah. (Boy, did the Iranians ever show US their gratitude in 1979!) Or our seemingly uncritical support of Israel. Or our basing troops on Saudi soil in the aftermath of Gulf War One. (Which was one of Bin Laden's very specific gripes that helped to motivate the 9/11 attacks. Forget this "clash of civilizations" nonsense.) For that matter, our troops were -- rather quietly, as I recall -- withdrawn from Saudi Arabia during the Bush II Administration. So, it would seem that despite all the blather and bluster of "never caving in to terrorists," that's exactly what we did.


Mon, Sep 12, 2011 : noon

While any parent who loses a child is deserving of considerable empathy and slack, whatever their views, many ( although not all) of those in policy making positions who have supported armed overt and covert response to terrorists are hardly ill-informed " idiots who hate peace". Our current president is one such. Those of us who bipartisanly support his considered mix of diplomatic and military options arent either (e.g I have a doctorate in middle east related matters and taught the stuff for over 3-decades in 2 major universities). May i gently and peacefully suggest that history by no means unambiguously leads to the 'bliss-ninny" conclusions you seem to advocate. Nor are those who support them