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Readers share their memories of 9/11
Revs. Barbara and Jaco ten Hove, co-ministers, Cedars Unitarian Universalist Church, Bainbridge Island
Ten years ago, we were serving as co-ministers at a Unitarian Universalist church just 10 miles from the Nation’s Capitol in Washington, D.C. On September 11, after the confusion and horror of watching things unfold on television, the experience became even more deeply personal.
We received word that on the flight that crashed into the Pentagon was a local family—mother, father and two young daughters—one of whom we had met with her grandparents at a church camp only a month earlier.
Desperate and in anguish, the grandparents asked us to lead two memorial services for this family. That was a large part of our reality on those heartbreaking days following 9/11. We remember the extraordinary courage of this family’s friends and relations, as they told stories and were able to laugh and cry in the midst of their terrible loss. And we also remember how important it was to say out loud, at their memorial services, that this loss was in no way “God’s will.” The Gracious Spirit whom we call by many names was grieving with us and we felt such presence deeply.
We were also active in a local interfaith leadership group, which, during that first week after 9/11, called the community together in a nearby lakeside park to sing, mourn and light candles of hope and healing. Perhaps the most powerful moment came that evening when our friend the local rabbi embraced the imam from the Islamic Center.
As we wept, we also held out hope that religious hatred and violence would not have its way anymore. On that warm September night, as 500 candles flickered and people of all kinds came together to mourn and to hope, we knew both the despair and the deep joy that comes from accepting that injustice happens and yet still trying to do right.
This year, we will, as we do each year, pray for peace and healing for all people everywhere.
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Tammy Fujihara, Bainbridge Island
I was in the office above our garage and turned on a little fuzzy black and white television. I was in disbelief, and couldn’t even begin to grasp the severity of the situation. My reaction to seeing the footage of the plane hitting the Twin Towers was, “Boy, they must have had some severe steering trouble to hit that building.” At that time they had no information on suicide bombers or anything so menacing. I was so naive.
Now every time I’m at a Mariner’s game and a plane flies over Safeco Field, I hold my breath.
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Theresa Cabral, Bremerton
The one thing that stands out in my memory of that awful event was when I was trying to sleep and the silence in the skies. Because all airports were shut down, the skies didn’t have the sound of planes overhead. Then, one night I’m not sure, it was maybe the third night, I heard a jet plane and I knew it wasn’t a commercial airliner but a military jet. I was so scared we were being attacked again. But, I calmed myself thinking, “They are just protecting us, everything is OK, you can sleep now.”
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Maria Marsala, Poulsbo
On 9/11 I was having a difficult time sleeping and watched TV. Finally near 4 a.m. I felt a bit tired. So I decided to rest on the couch. Next thing I knew I awoke to hear Matt Lauer sounding shocked, and the TV very loud. At first I thought that I was watching a movie. Then I realized that this was real and I was watching an airplane burning the building. I wondered what those things were that people were throwing out the building. Then in horror I realized it was people jumping from the building to their death.
Matt wondered if a plane had a problem. He didn’t want to jump to conclusions. Having grown up during the Cold War, I immediately thought that the country was being attacked by the Russians. Then I watched as plane number 2 went into the south building, and so on.
I called my siblings and woke two of them up in N.Y. I was most worried about my sister, the airline stewardess; but no one knew what flight she was on or where her destination was. It wasn’t until five hours later that we found out that she was OK and in Ohio. My brother had been on his way to a breakfast meeting at the Trade Center. I am glad he didn’t get there on time.
After the event I was like most people, I was attached to the TV and cried and cried. I am sure that I along with zillions of others were in shock. Every now and then I cry again. I know that I am crying for the sadness of it all. The deaths of so many people, the people they left behind. Having this country attacked on our own soil again, this time mainland USA, and all that it meant, and what those buildings represented to this country. I cry because my country was attacked. I cry because as a citizen my spirit was attacked, too.
On Sunday, I, like you, will remember all those we lost. I am not answering the phones, not working, not on the computer. This is the day to pray for the world. Pray for peace. This is the day I save all year to cry on. Yes, even after 10 years, when I see a picture of the towers, when I see a picture missing the towers, when someone asks me about them, I start getting upset and say, “I can save those feelings for thought on 9/11.”
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Michele Doyle, Poulsbo
My husband and I were married on Sep. 11, 1987. We were planning to celebrate 14 years of marriage; for days my husband had begged me to take off work so we could go play a round of golf while the children were at school. But I had several meetings planned that day I felt could not be postponed so I said no. I commuted to Chicago on the train every day and worked in a building directly across the street from the Sears Tower. I remembered walking into my office that morning and learning about the news in New York. We were confused as to what was happening and then it became clearer that they were under attack. As I started to call my husband and tell him to check the news, security had gotten to our floor (32nd) of our building and said they were evacuating the city.
Alarms started going off, and without really comprehending the extent of the threat, we were being herded out of the building and directed to whatever forms of transportation awaited. For me it was the Amtrak train. It took hours for the city of Chicago to load trains.
While waiting, my husband was feeding me details of the situation in New York. When he told me that the first tower had collapsed, I was stunned. Incomprehensibly, the second building collapsed. At this time the speculation was that this was deliberate. It dawned on both of us that we who were sitting in the Amtrak Station waiting for our trains to depart were all sitting ducks. There were thousands of people attempting to flee the city — crammed onto a train or sitting in the station. It was frightening.
When I finally arrived home to my husband we realized how our anniversary would forever be changed. Not only will we be celebrating our marriage, but we’ll be thinking of the lives lost and saved on that tragedy-filled day.
Ten years later as we prepare to celebrate 24 years of marriage we still remember that day as if it was yesterday. We celebrate our commitment to each other and feel pride in the country we love while I silently pray for our citizens and for peace.
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Dorothy Michak, Kingston
I commute to Seattle for my job that connects me to New York, the financial markets and the people involved. I have worked with many great people including the people of Cantor Fitzgerald, who were on the 105th floor of the North Tower that day.
I will never forget. I walked into work at 6:05 a.m. just after the second plane had hit the South Tower, saw the images on the screen and knew it was bad, but still had hope. I watched as both towers collapsed and I still hoped that there was some way they made it out. It took days for it to sink in to me that they did not.
What saved me from despair was the amazing way people pulled together. It was a tragedy beyond anything I could ever imagine. I had a number of phone conversations with people going through it, regular people that had just experienced this horrific event and were coming into work anyway. I listened, cried a few times and marveled at how they were able to pull together and keep going. It affirmed to me that most people are good and want to help, and we’re all interconnected.
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Mick Sheldon, Kingston
My brother’s brother-in-law, Paul Jurgens, was a previously decorated Port Authority officer for his rescue actions after an airline disaster. He was a first responder. Our family lost contact with him and requests for prayers went out throughout our families. We watched the news and celebrated when the false reports came out about rescues. We went to sleep fearing the worse, yet still with some hope.
Paul was never found and is one of many first responders who gave his life that day serving his fellow man.