'This is my Pearl Harbor'
"This is my Pearl Harbor," Andrea Belen, 19, a Washington State University student told us when we asked readers how Tuesday's terrorist attacks have affected them.
Fear, anger, resolve and uncertainty about the future were reflected in the nearly 100 e-mail and phone messages we received. Some struggled to explain to their children an event they couldn't understand themselves. Some called for immediate retribution; others cautioned against hasty actions. Many talked about the destruction, not just to the targets of Tuesday's attacks, but to their sense of security and well-being.
Several even noted that the date of the attack, Sept. 11, fit the emergency phone number, "911," while another tried to see a pattern and prediction in the flight numbers of the hijacked jets.
Here are some of your thoughts:
— Jack Broom, Seattle Times staff reporter
The newscast seemed unreal, too much to handle that early in the morning, and instantly my stomach churned.
This is my Pearl Harbor. This is the biggest change in my life. Some of my fellow students are blissfully ignorant of the ramifications of this attack but many are all too aware of what might happen.
Boys fresh from high school worry about having to fight an upcoming war. Arabic students avoid eye contact with their peers so as to avoid a confrontation and angry youth yell for the "nuking" of Palestine. It all seemed so wrong to go about our everyday business ... to continue with the routine of life considering all that had happened. But to not continue is what the terrorists wanted. If we quit, if we hang our heads and let this tragedy control our lives ... then they have won.
So class will go on, homework will be passed in and the cycle will continue. The victims are not forgotten, but we that are alive must refuse to become victims as well.
— Andrea Belen, 19, Seattle, a communications major at Washington State University
A tree in memory
I've been torn between wanting to watch every minute of coverage, to being so overwhelmed that I can't take it anymore. My husband and I and 2-year-old-son went for a walk at the beach in the afternoon, to spend time together and appreciate the life we have. We had to get away from the house and the TV.
Today, we'll be planting a tree in our yard, in memory of those who died. And we've been praying nonstop — for the families of those who lost loved ones and for our nation's leaders to have wisdom on how best to deal with the horrific incident.
I wrote in my son's journal last night, that I'm afraid he won't know the same "America" that we have known. I think things are going to be different now — very different.
— Mickey Bambrick, 43, a free-lance writer in Mount Vernon
Dealing with it together
I thought I was doing fine with it until I crossed the U.S. 2 trestle out of Everett and saw that the road construction crews had the American flag flying on their pickup trucks — it struck me very hard that our entire nation was going to deal with this TOGETHER. The pain will unite us as a country and remind us of the fragile human condition the entire world faces. We have not known chaos and senseless death nearly as much as the rest of the world — it will open our eyes to the daily plight of many people in this world.
— Mitzi J. Bennett, 41, communications and marketing director for Snohomish County PUD
Little plastic flag
After sending my 12-year-old off to school, I put our little plastic flag at half-mast and said a prayer. All day I wondered how he was doing, if the school would be showing TV news and if he could comprehend what had happened. I thought at different times in the day of what class he was in, what food he ate, how he was feeling.
Twelve-year-old boys these days are so aware of trying to look cool. I wondered if he saw the flag at home, would he be embarrassed because it's just a little plastic flag. I decided to meet his bus after school and walk up the hill home with him. As we reached our corner I realized he was filled with sadness. At that very moment, we both looked toward our little house and there flying half-mast, was the most uplifting site: our little plastic flag. We looked at each other, smiled and walked, arms around each other, to home sweet home.
— Lillian Smith, 52, Tukwila, a teacher's aide
11-year-old broke the news
"Dad, Manhattan is under attack!"
These were the words of my 11-year-old daughter as she came down the stairs this morning ... her alarm-clock radio was broadcasting what was going on.
Our small family of four, now awake, sat stunned! We watched the news in shock. It took awhile to catch up to the stories, so we didn't realize two planes had hit already.
Our girls, Annie and Lauren, both went to school and my wife and I watched several hours of coverage. ... We were stunned. It seemed like a scene out of "Armageddon" or "Deep Impact." We both thought, how could this be happening? Is it even real. I felt numb!
I was angry. I felt like joining the military and helping fight the people who did this and make sure I help build a legacy for my children and theirs. ... I actually called the local Army recruiting office to find out what the maximum age is to join the Army. "Thirty-four, sir," the proud recruiter stated. I asked, "Are there exceptions?" He said, "No, except for an act of Congress"! I guess I'll wait for the act of Congress.
Right after the president spoke, I went on my usual mountain-bike ride at St. Edwards Park. I was amazed at how many people were on the trails. I've never seen that much bike traffic at St. Eddy's on a weeknight. In a way I thought people were out riding for the same reasons I was. I wanted to taste, feel, absorb my freedom to ride my bike. It was my way of remembering there's order in chaos and in the end this tragic event nor the events to come will not take away my freedom.
When it was bedtime an hour ago, as a family we gathered in our bed, held hands, talked about what happened and prayed for ourselves, the nation. ... My 7-year-old, Annie, became very, very sad and bothered as I told her how we have to be thankful we have each other because there were several families in New York and Washington that were not together.
We're praying for our nation, and that none of us, wherever we are, forget this tragic event.
— Rick Pumphrey, 38, Kirkland, animation software sales representative
A loss for words
My family and I are devastated over this tragedy. We don't know what to think. 'Is this going to cause us to go to war?' is the thought that keeps running through my head. I am just at a loss for words right now. It is a terrible thing that has happened and our prayers are with the families that may have lost a LOVED one.
— Katrishca Henderson, Puyallup, billing-service representative
Thoughts of a 7-year-old
My son is a 7-year-old at Challenger Elementary in Issaquah.
We have close friends in New York City, and he has been there to feel the beat of the city first hand, so he has a perception of the magnitude of this attack. Still in his eyes, it looks like a problem with a resolution to come. He summed it yesterday for his friends after school:
"The Evil People are killing us and themselves to make us afraid, but they're too afraid to even show up. It doesn't make any sense; it's really stupid."
The school did not make any introduction or statements linked to the attack. We were listening to the radio in the morning before school and heard the reports, and then watched footage on the television. I worried about what he was thinking all day. Before school, he was worried that "Washington" meant Washington state, and that "they" might get us, too.
— Marie Blackwood, 39, Issaquah, mother
Sense of safety missing
Yesterday, my children's sense of safety in this country changed forever. At 14, my twins are old enough to realize the horrors that exist in the world; but for the first time, are facing events happening in their own country. Together, my husband, kids and I watched the news. Often times we cried. More than once, we prayed as a family. A new element of fear has surfaced in the boy's lives.
This morning, before they went to school, I read them the following entry from my journal. It is very rough, but I needed to convey to them that evil would not prevail.
the use of terror.
Cries of mercy, go unheeded
by the human zealots.
Planes crashing, fires burning, buildings falling,
Where is God?
The smoke is black.
I cannot see him.
Wait! There he is!
In the midst of swirling evil
The policeman, fireman, and doctor
searching, finding, healing
Neighbor helping neighbor.
And what of those too broken?
Those children are already in paradise!
So our God remains with us
to love, comfort, and walk
the journey to reconciliation.
— Barbara Symonds, 42, Seattle, a "full-time mom"
Light a candle
I have an idea that will show the rest of the world how much this means to America — the senseless (at least to us ) killing of thousands of Americans. On Friday the 14th of September 2001 at 8 p.m. ( Pacific Daylight Time ) I would like every American to light a candle to show their support, compassion and strength.
I invite all of you to pass this message across the country in hopes that the rest of the world will see the picture from the air of the unity of the United States of America. We must unite or we will fall.
— Christine Messer, 39, Yakima
I had planned to visit my father this weekend by flying to California. I instead returned my tickets to Alaska Airlines. Not out of fear of flying, but out of concern that another attack could shut down air traffic for my return trip, leaving me stranded in California away from my wife and three children in Everett. I decided it was a bad risk. I might drive instead.
— Aaron Ott, 32, Everett, a gallery director
Concern for son in New York
This was the first time I let my 17-year-old travel alone to New York to visit his grandmother (He left Friday on American Airlines ). Monday he visited downtown Manhattan. I thank God that he stayed uptown yesterday and was with his grandmother. ... He was able to photograph the billowing smoke. He does not want to get on his return flight to Seattle on Sunday.
— Linda Ayres, 42, Mercer Island, a journalist and full-time mother
Our flag went up
We have three children ages 11, 14 and 15. All were interested enough to watch the constant reports from CNN. The older two were interested in the comparisons causality-wise to Pearl Harbor and Oklahoma City. While there was concern and compassion, there was also great interest in the approach that would be taken to search out and apprehend the culprits.
The world view and world support along with the president's message, that those harboring terrorists would be included in the "act of war" retaliation, seemed to meet with their acceptance.
Our flag went up on the front porch at 8 p.m.
— Dan Japhet, 58, Edmonds, owner of a marketing and advertising company