Locals react to attacks with tears, fear, disbelief
At St. James Cathedral in the heart of Seattle's First Hill, an estimated 1,500 people poured into the sanctuary at noon today seeking silent fellowship after awakening to the enormity that terrorists had destroyed the World Trade Center in New York, causing a horrendous but still uncalculated loss of human life.
All faiths were invited to St. James, and the crowd spilled out the doors. Some openly wept.
Mayoral candidates Charlie Chong and Mark Sidran, arrived separately and promptly dropped to their knees in prayer.
Outside, the church bell rang to mark a calamitous day in our nation's history.
"Terrorists have sacrificed human lives in wholesale fashion and have left the world feeling vulnerable and afraid," Archbishop Alex Burnett told the gathering.
Students from O'Dea High School, across from St. James, sat on the sidewalk and ate their lunches in somber quiet.
"A lot of us are feeling confused. You think you're safe, and then something like this happens," said Grant Gasca, 16, a junior. "You realize it's a lot easier for something like this to happen. It's scary."
Other churches and synagogues were scheduling special services for this afternoon and evening. Local Muslim leaders were planning an interfaith vigil.
Earlier in the morning, motorists on their way to work sobbed as they heard the news on their car radio.
Others stood at home before their television sets in utter disbelief, recalling the attack on Pearl Harbor nearly 60 years ago.
And at least a few decided the best course of action was to leave the country immediately.
Throughout Puget Sound, fear, numb confusion and vulnerability were reflected on faces young and old.
At the entrance to Columbia Bank of America Tower at Fourth Avenue and Cherry Street, employees reported to work only to learn that the 76-story building, Seattle's tallest, had been closed for safety. They gathered at an outdoor foyer and talked about the news the way an earlier generation of Americans must have spoken about Pearl Harbor.
"I feel numb," said Greg Klump, 51, a financial accounting manager for Seattle's Department of Information Technology. "If I stopped to think about the people and the families of the people inside those buildings right now, I'd probably break down and cry."
Another man, unsure how to react to the devastation, wondered aloud on a downtown Seattle sidewalk: What does one do in the event of a national emergency when it's not happening in your town but greatly affects you personally?
In the jury room on the seventh floor of the King County Courthouse, potential jurors sat in a room designed to keep the news of the world out. But the news was all anyone was discussing this morning. "I keep thinking, how can they do this to innocent people?" said Carma Gunno of Sammamish.
Listening to KIRO radio on his way to jury duty, Jim Bailey at first thought it was a hoax a la Orson Welles' infamous "War of the Worlds" radio broadcast in the 1930s. But he quickly realized the news was real.
"The enormity of this I don't think will be known for a long time," said Bailey, 71, of Seattle, who grimly catalogued the news as one of those events you remember forever where you were when you heard it: Pearl Harbor, his discharge from the Army in San Francisco, President Kennedy's assassination and the Oklahoma City bombing.
But while some compared this to Pearl Harbor, Bailey said it quite differently: Then there was a clear target to strike back.
"I was a young man when I heard that news and we were angry and wanted to do something about it," Bailey said. "But now my reaction is, we're vulnerable. What can we do about this?"
At Franklin High School, Principal John Jackson told students over the intercom that counselors would be moving from class to class to help them.
"A lot of the kids are concerned," said Assistant Principal Cathy Thomas. "They are tense, and they are nervous about something happening here in Seattle. A few of them have experienced concerns about some of their relatives who live on the East Coast, and they are not able to be in touch with them."
Tenth grade students in Ron Hailey's world-history class struggled to make sense of an attack that Hailey, too, likened to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
"Were terrorists flying the airplanes that crashed?" one student wanted to know. Another student explained that hijackers had caused the crashes.
"Are we at war right now?" another student asked.
"We're not at a direct state of war, but we are under attack," Hailey said.
"I don't feel safe no more," a student replied.
Other Franklin students also expressed vulnerability. "I'm kind of expecting a total war," said senior Patricia Warren, 17. "Everybody attacks this country because they hate us. It's probably because we make bad decisions."
Warren said she was concerned that some students quickly placed the blame on Muslim terrorists, despite the initial lack of information about the perpetrators.
Some students understood the events to be an historic watershed. "Our parents and grandparents went through things like this," said senior Terri Hollis, 17. "It's something we have to go through. In later generations we'll tell our grandkids we were there when someone attacked."
At the Puyallup fairgrounds in Puyallup, the Islamic Information Center in Seattle had a stall at the fair, but boarded it up today and left, concerned that someone there might get hurt. In Kitsap County, at a gas station in Gorst, employee Erin Milovich said the date will stick in her head forever. "9-11. That's what Americans call when they need help."
Patrick McBurney, an attorney from the Tri-Cities, and his wife Julie McBurney arrived at Seattle Tacoma International Airport at 5:45 this morning.
They were waiting for a flight to Calgary when word came over the intercom that all flights would be delayed at least three hours.
"I certainly hope our response is swift and accurate," said McBurney, calling the attack an act of war.
The couple decided to rent a car and wait out the day in Seattle. "We were lucky to get our bags and lucky to rent a car and lucky to get out of the airport," said McBurney.
Along the Seattle waterfront, some tourists said they were trying to leave the United States as rapidly as possible to avoid any further terrorist acts.
Daniel Stevenson and a friend, Karen McCall, both had come from Vancouver, B.C., to visit Seattle for a couple days while on a tour from their home in Glasgow, Scotland.
This morning, they were buying tickets for the Victoria Clipper to Victoria, B.C. "We're moving away from all major American icons," said Stevenson, explaining that he and McCall had been staying at a motel near the Space Needle but when they learned of the attacks in New York, decided to check out and leave the U.S. as quickly as possible.
Other travelers along the waterfront reported they were stunned by the attacks but didn't plan to change their travel arrangements.
"We're here visiting our daughter from Toronto," said Helen Colinson, who had arrived in Seattle Friday with her husband, Peter. She was among the countless viewers who watched the Trade Center towers collapse this morning on televised broadcasts.
"God save us all," she said.
Aboard a Bremerton ferry en route to Colman Dock this morning before vehicle traffic was closed down on the ferries, Seattle Police Officer Dwayne Brown said, "My wife was scared to death to have me go to work today and not come home." She gave him an extra-big hug.
On another ferry, one from Bainbridge Island, passengers left silently, none speaking to others.
Stephanie Steele, who had planned to drive to a doctor's appointment but instead found herself walking after service was restricted to passengers only, said the entire trip across Puget Sound was wordless. "It's just devastating," she said.
"Everybody was just silent, it's just so sad. I felt so vulnerable. We're just naked in the eyes of people who want to attack us." Steele added that she had been a flight attendant for many years with American Airlines, the carrier that lost two airplanes in the attacks.
"I wondered if any of my friends were aboard. So many of them fly back in forth to the East Coast." Then she began to cry and left to hail a taxi.
As of 2:35 p.m. today, Washington State Ferries is allowing cars back onto ferries, for all regularly scheduled vehicle-ferry runs.
At the Space Needle at Seattle Center this morning, the grounds were virtually deserted as one of Seattle's top tourist attractions was shut down. "Our number one concern is the safety and security of our guests and staff," said Dean Nelson, president and chief executive officer of the Space Needle.
Nelson said there had been no specific threat against the Space Needle but the officers at the tourist attraction decided independently to secure the building at about 7 a.m.
About 15 people would have been at the Space Needle this morning, and over the course of the day it would have handled about 3,500 guests, said Nelson.
The incalculable loss of human life in New York put problems in perspective for 42-year-old Kevin Crandal, a chef at Seattle's 13 Coins restaurant. "I got up this morning and worried about bills," he said. "Who cares about bills now?"
In Mill Creek, the sign outside Wileywood Nursery carried a plaintive message that so many others were also asking this morning: "Why?"
Snohomish County Executive Bob Drewel said he placed the county in a Stage 1 alert early this morning, which includes opening emergency-communication devices to allow contact with the state's emergency network. The county-operated Paine Field, just south of the Everett Boeing plant, was closed this morning.
"We have across the board a heightened state of vigilance," said Drewel, who was awakened by a telephone call with the news shortly after the first plane crash.
"It's a little crazy up here," said Pam Sanboz, Drewel's executive assistant. "Everybody is in a state of shock, praying that this is going to end here."
"It's horrible. We're just appalled up here," said Snohomish County Councilwoman Barbara Cothern. "When I saw that second plane go into the trade center — it is just sickening."
In Renton, the city has opened its emergency-operations center as a precaution. City Hall and other city operations were to remain open until further notice.
Crews at Bellevue Square and Bellevue Place have been making security sweeps through the buildings and stores early this morning. Both the shopping center and office building are open, said Clark Rice, vice president and security director.
"I served in Vietnam," Rice said. "It took 10 years to kill 50,000 people. After this morning, we're at war."
Many wondered if any Americans could feel safe after today's events.
"It makes you afraid to go to work. Makes you afraid to leave the comfort of your own home. I just can't believe it. What a tragedy," said Cec Thomas, legal secretary in Everett.
"My first thoughts were just about literally all the thousands of victims and what their families are going through. And then what's this going to do to our whole way of life?" said Jim Johnson, pastor of the Lighthouse Free Methodist Church in Lynnwood. "You listen to the news and you just kind of sit there numb. I think, 'What do I say in church on Sunday now?' And I don't know."
Peace Action of Washington, the state's largest peace and social justice organization, said in a statement that it is "horrified by the utterly evil terrorist attacks of today."
"This horrific tragedy came on a day when the United Nations was set to recognize this as a world 'Day of Peace,' a day when we recognize that the world and each of us individually must find nonviolent methods of settling conflicts," said Scott Carpenter, executive director, expressing sympathy for the victims and their families.
"As the world mobilizes to find the culprits of this horrific tragedy, we must also mobilize to identify both the motive and the underlying causes which brought about this action."
Seattle Times staffers Ray Rivera, Alex Tizon, Christine Clarridge, Peyton Whitely, Gina Kim, Keith Ervin, Alex Fryer, Diane Brooks, Janet Burkitt, John de Leon and Sherry Grindeland contributed to this report.