The Daily Astorian asked readers to write their thoughts on the one-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Someone who was thereSept. 11 affected me the same way Pearl Harbor affected my grandparents, and the same way the assassination of JFK affected my parents. It is a day which will always stick out in your mind, a day in which you remember why your heroes are your heroes.
I did not listen to the first attack on the radio, nor did I watch it on TV. I watched the first attacks on America from my apartment building in New York City.
On May 20, 2001, I started my journey to New York City, where I was headed to become a nanny and take classes at a design school. I fell in love with New York City the minute my driver dropped me off. It's the city that never sleeps, the city of opportunities, the financial city of the world.
Sept. 11 started as a usual morning to me. I got ready, made breakfast for the kids and got them dressed. Chloe was not in any hurry this morning, because school started on the 13th, so I was going to take her to the duck pond in Central Park that day. She asked me to read to her Dr. Seuss' "The Cat in the Hat." My boss had left to take Pierce to school that day because it was his first day of preschool.
So as I was reading to Chloe, the noise started. Fire trucks every five minutes, police every five minutes. I was pretty curious because I had been living in New York City for five months and had never seen (or heard) a fire quite like that one. I went to the window toward midtown, and that was where I could see a tower on fire.
At that moment, a second plane was coming from the right, and it looked like it was heading for another tower. However, it also looked like a plane coming from Newark Airport, so I didn't think much thought about it until when I turned to pull up another windowshade I noticed how the smoke doubled, and the sirens were louder and more frequent.
Melissa (the mom) came home from drop-off and I asked her about what was going on outside. She said that there were fires in New York. About five minutes later, Barry (her husband) had called and had informed us about what was going on, and how he was being evacuated (although his office was in midtown, not downtown).
Now I was standing at the living room windows crying about what was going on. Not crying because I was scared, or I wanted to come home, but about all the family and friends to those in the Twin Towers. That was when it started to crumble, right in front of my eyes.
I couldn't even breathe.
I watched the rest of Sept. 11 unfold on the television, but what affected me was not watching it, but Sept. 12.
From no sleep the night before, we decided to take the kids to the park, however, no one was out - no taxis, few people. The people you did see out were handing you missing person fliers, or they were standing in mile-long blood donation lines. You could not walk around without pictures in your hand, or goosebumps if you heard a helicopter, because you knew air traffic control was off. You were in constant tears and fears.
The hardest part of Sept. 11 and after for me was seeing a fireman, because you knew he became your hero, and you knew he was alive.
A lot has affected me from Sept. 11, but if I could pass my advice to someone, it would be to appreciate your policemen and firemen, and to let them know they are heroes. They need to know.
But most of all, life is too short to take for granted!
An unusual connectionI feel a mathematical connection to Sept. 11, 2001 because on another Tuesday morning, Jan. 9, 2001 we lost our 26-year-old Oregon State University graduate school daughter most unexpectedly.
That ferocious Sept. 11 morning unleashed a flood of emotions because it was another Tuesday of loss. I could envision our own dear "Diva Di" standing at the gates of heaven welcoming those new residents with only her brand of magical hospitality.
Our son had flown into Newark Airport a day earlier to begin training for a new job. His proximity to the disaster hit far too close to home for our entire family. As I stood witnessing the towers collapse on television, my world was forever shaken.
Within a month of Sept. 11, I announced I was quitting my job to devote time to my family, rather than my misbegotten ideas of earning money. On the first anniversary of our daughter's death we were memorializing her, celebrating this magnificent country we reside in and I embarked on writing a book about her. Sept. 11 solidified my desires to make every moment count!
I refuse to live for the future, but rather in every moment for the remainder of my life.
War solves nothingSince the attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., in September and the U.S. government's "Cyclops-like" response, I have realized that the world is a dark and more nefarious place than I had ever imagined.
Every morning I awaken fearing that our country, with the most deadly weapons ever invented, has started another terrible war somewhere. I wonder how endless war can ever make the world a safer place, one more secure from terrorists. I think of the mothers and babies I work with every day, and wonder what kind of a future children have in a world on fire. As a midwife, I am called to help stop the killing.
Since Sept. 11, I have started learning about the power of peace. I am studying Gandhi, who led millions from blind hatred to understanding. I take strength from the courage of the Jewish midwives who hid Moses in the bulrushes to protect him from Pharaoh's soldiers. I struggle to understand the message of Jesus, who died a felon, convicted and executed for acts of civil disobedience against a violent state.
I think of the activists who sat at the Memphis lunch counters and were beaten and arrested over and over again, until finally, desegregation became the law of our land. I am inspired by the commitment of the people in the International Solidarity Movement, who live the teachings of Judaism, Christianity and Islam by acting as "human shields" in the occupied territories, in Latin America, and in other places of conflict, standing on the side of whomever the gun is pointed at.
I stand with others at the Post Office every Friday to demonstrate to myself and my community that there is an alternative to fear and hopelessness. I wonder why humans, so creative and with so much potential, choose to direct their considerable talents toward devising more elaborate ways to hurt one another when there is so much work to do.
Sept. 11 taught me that we humans really are all the same. We all depend on the same small, fragile planet for survival. War is not a solution in this time of rapid transportation, instant telecommunications, nuclear weapons, nasty stockpiles of germs everywhere and millions of angry people. We cannot stop terrorism with identification chips, more vaccines, elimination of our civil rights and permanent war. Destruction is simple, healing is not. We humans are capable of creating a world without violence, if we are willing.
We must teach our children that another world is possible, or we will all die together on our small beautiful planet.
An end to freedom"Come in here and see this!" My son called me to see the plane crash into one of the Twin Towers. I was born in Brooklyn and New York City is part of my life.
"What is happening?" I asked as I watched the plane sticking out of one side of the building.
"We are being bombed," was his reply.
I stood watching, then I sat watching before I said, "Oh my God, that whole building is going down."
And so, along with millions of other Americans, I watched the first fall. A fall down the slippery dark well which will forever characterize the 21st century.
As we see our quiet giant government turned loose to gobble up every freedom we ever had, I know that those foreign men didn't die in vain. They wanted to destroy a freedom-loving country whose belief system is that we are invincible. They did. We instantaneously turned paranoid. Now women are embarrassed by groping hands as we try to travel. Men who look Arabian are vulnerable to every man in uniform. Prisons without trials are part of our makeup. And suggestions that we strike out at everyone who has different ideas than our own is well on the political agenda, although we are only one year away.
Even the very young can now say, "I remember when." Constitutional laws are being bypassed in the name of "terrorist."
I haven't lost faith in my country. I didn't lose faith in my religion when I found out priests were not all to be trusted.
We are stepping into a brand new era of which we have very little solid knowledge. Leaders all over the world will be as dumb as the average person and they will be unreliable. We give government power beyond their intellect and they can destroy many a life. We need to ask questions and get something else besides a recording machine for an answer. From now on in, we can only rely upon knowledge brought forth from the past experiences of great men and women in the United States' history to hold fast to high ideals until this so-called war is over.
Europeans unanimousDuring our May 2002 visit to Germany, my wife and I answered many concerned questions about Sept. 11. Friends and strangers alike expressed their support for America and the need to eliminate terrorism.
However, to a person they questioned the Bush administration's belligerence toward some Asian countries and the United States' foreign policy in the Near East, which many Europeans view as the very cause for the unrest among the disenfranchised masses there.
Anniversary sharedSept. 11, 1971 was the day my husband, Malcolm, and I got married at the age of 21.
It was a very hot day in Oroville, Calif. It was a simple "home-made wedding." My sister made my baby blue dress, we made paper flowers for decorations and I even made my own wedding cake (which fell apart in the heat).
It was a date that for 30 years was only meaningful in our family.
It is very strange now to share such a special occasion with a day that has caused so many people so much sadness and loss.
SANDRA VAN MEER
Images of comfortTHE CROSS AND THE FLAGA dark shadow was cast over this great Nation, but the Cross and the Flag surged from beneath the rubble and death; the great sacrifice, to bring forth a renewed spirit of peace and strength.
From across the far waters, all earth seemed to watch, as the peaceful Nation reached within; and through the rubble, hands reached out to perform, not duties, but human feats of charity and love.
The vision isn't new, whether natural or man-made disaster, the strengths found within, often outweigh the duties usually performed. The inhuman challenge is met by the humblest of people, reaching inside to surpass and defeat, their strengths compounding to win the challenge.
"One Nation, under God," ... a God who is love and compassion and offers forgiveness to all, is reaching out his arms once again to shelter us and provide a safe retreat. We don't stand alone but are held in his hands.
God Bless America
written for Memorial Day 2002
A visionMy outer life is the same as it was prior to Sept. 11, 2001. I work, play, sleep, eat, laugh, cry and drive U.S. Highway 101, among other things. However, my inner life has changed. In my mind and in my heart I nearly steadfastly hold a vision of peace.
In this vision, people work together to create an environment in which the main tenet is respect for all God's creatures. In this vision, we all are nurtured in such a way that we all reach our full potential. In this vision, "full potential" is not how much we can accumulate by any means necessary no matter who or what is damaged.
In this vision, "full potential" is knowing and using our unique gifts and talents to assist the whole. In this vision, greed and fear are not the motivating factors of human activity, nor are they revered and rewarded as they are in this current culture. In this vision, love and trust are the dominating forces.
In this vision, the people who are seen as heroes and heroines are those that give, not those that take.
In this vision, humans are "walking in balance" with each other and everything else on the planet. This doesn't mean that everything is all rainbows and happiness. Conflict exists. Bad things happen. It means that everyone is willing to work hard together to create solutions to complex problems. It means that everyone is valued for his or her contributions, however big or little they are.
Now, I hear the voices out there and in my head that say, "Balderdash, poppycock, Pollyanna. Such a vision is not possible. Humans have always fought and grabbed whatever they could for themselves. That will never change." Yes, now and then, I dip into the well of despair at the deplorable conditions we humans have created on this planet and despair at our ability and willingness to change. Now, however, I no longer dwell there for very long, but jump out (or on some days climb out slowly) and hold fast to this vision of peace.
I do not have the exact quote, but Albert Einstein said something to this effect: "If an idea is not at first absurd, it is not worth pursuing."
If we create our own reality, if thoughts are the first step in manifestation, if prayer has power, then this vision is possible. It is a matter of will and willingness. It is a matter of faith and love.
And shared visions are even more powerful and possible. As John Lennon wrote:
"You may say I am a dreamer.
But I'm not the only one.
I hope some day you will join us
and the world will be as one."