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Sunday, September 8, 2002 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Letters to the editor

A year to reflect

'Remember the lives that were lost on that day'

Editor, The Times:

I have just become an American citizen. I have done so in response to every John Walker Lindh who shows disrespect to his nation of birth; and to every OBL (Osama bin Laden) who is deluded into thinking that America's grace, patience and generosity towards other nations is a sign of weakness.

As proud Americans, my husband and I have given our best gift to this country in the form of our son, who serves with excellence in the U.S. Army. Our hearts are filled with gratitude for all Americans who have fought for freedom and democracy throughout the world.

This is a hospitable, generous and courageous nation. My only hope is that my family and I might live the rest of our days serving our community and the USA with the same courage, dedication, integrity and patriotism as was exhibited by all on Sept. 11.

I call upon all Americans to remember the lives that were lost on that tragic day. In some small way, may we take up the mission of those lives by living more for others, serving our fellow man, honoring God, conducting ourselves with integrity and excellence in all we do, and fighting evil in every form.

Our true greatness will not be told in the numbers of evildoers who are captured or killed following Sept. 11, but in the resolute and unwavering spirit of kindness and freedom that so marks this nation.

May God bless you all.

Your fellow American,

Vivien Hibbert, Lynden

'I thank God for those who are friendly and kind'

I no longer feel safe in a community where my family has lived for 100 years. While walking within a half-mile of Lake Washington High School, where I graduated in 1965, I was told to take my rag-head back home. I'm treated rudely by sales clerks who chat up everyone else in line and then do their best to treat me as if I were imposing on them. I have been yelled at for the simple act of picking blackberries in my own neighborhood.

I have learned what it's like to be the target of bigots. I thank God for the many members of this community who are friendly and kind and I will continue to pray for those who are not.

Bonnie Rutherford, Kirkland

'I am the Muslim to ban more Muslims'

I am the immigrant to end all immigration. While I came from a different country myself (I am originally from a Muslim minority in Russia), 9/11 had turned me into a staunch foe of any continued immigration. All the worst Arab terrorists, including the 9/11 hijackers, came from so-called "friendly" Arab countries, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Many others came by way of two ostensibly friendly Anglo countries, Britain and Canada, prompting some in the FBI to nickname them "Londonistan" and "Canadistan."

I am the Muslim to ban any more Muslims from coming to this country.

Our media's mantra that "the vast majority of Muslims are peace-loving, law-abiding people" is nothing but politically correct blah, blah, blah. As a Muslim, I wish it were true, but it is not. Islam has been hijacked by the Arab and Iranian terrorists and turned into a suicidal-homicidal-genocidal hate cult which is now spreading like a plague throughout the Muslim world. The sad truth is that hundreds of millions have been now infected with this spiritual disease, and at least half of Muslims arriving to this country are actual or potential terrorists, terrorist supporters or sympathizers.

Unless and until all Muslim countries are liberated from terrorism as Afghanistan was, and are transformed into tolerant, civilized, enlightened societies, not one Muslim should be allowed to our country on a tourist, student, or any other visa. And if this deprives the centers of anti-American activism known as college campuses of their Arab cash cows who pay the whole tuition up front, tough.

We are in a fight for survival, so we better start acting like it.

Ruslan Tokhchukov, Redmond

'I am watching'

As a Spanish interpreter, I have seen an incredible immigrant backlash over the past year. I have seen my patients treated with less respect in several hospitals and have heard their stories about bosses and coworkers questioning their right to be in "our country," even if they have permanent residence or citizenship.

I have heard the phrases "Those people," "I'm not racist, but" and "Why don't you go back to Mexico?" resurrected, even when my clients are not Mexican.

I have seen financially struggling working immigrants face an erosion of their health care as employers cut benefits at the same time as the federal government, and now the state cuts benefits.

I am watching foreign-born children, even with cancer or serious diseases, lose their medical coupons across the board as of September at the same time Washington Basic Health is cutting down and employers are either not providing health care or charging up a huge chunk of a worker's take-home pay for medical insurance (most of my patients take home under a $1,000 a month for full-time work).

In the last year, I am seeing my clients pushed farther underground, seemingly back in time, into a darker, less-friendly world.

Lorane Alisa West, Seattle

'I have learned'

I was a flag waver before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. I am now able to display my love of country by displaying our country's banner without being viewed as obsessive. Our freedom has always been the basis of my activism, which has become more intense since the attacks.

I now feel even stronger in a strong defense in our military as well as the intelligence agencies. Peace is maintained by a strong military. As long as peace is not the goal of other nations, then we must be prepared to fight to keep the peace we have.

Terrorism, the global nightmare, has come to America. Safety is our goal but cannot in a free society be secure.

I have learned that total liberty is not possible if security is desired. The balance between freedom and security is fragile. Liberty is maintained by responsible freedom.

Roger Hancock, Auburn

'I could make a change'

One week before Sept. 11, 2001, I was threatened on the street by someone I didn't know. I was still disturbed by what could have provoked the threat when Sept. 11 happened. I realized that the provocation of anger and aggression may not always be understood but the wisdom of lessening the origins would make the streets — and the world — a safer place.

I had long felt that the anger, attacks and retaliation in Israel and Palestine were like an infection, inflaming anger and resentment in many parts of the world. I increased my effort to see where I could make a change and took an opportunity to go to Israel and Palestine. I met many Jews, Christians and Arabs working tirelessly to bring peace to the Holy Land.

Since my return, I have talked to many, in our more secure and peaceful country, encouraging their efforts to increase peace — on our streets and in the world. I intend to keep inspired by the courage of peacemakers in the Mideast and other areas of conflict.

Constance Trowbridge, Seattle

'I seek to promote peace'

Sept. 11 was a wake-up call for me. It told me that the world was in a more fragile condition than I had realized.

I could no longer just sit back and hope things would turn out all right. It was time for my voice to join with the thousands of others who called for a thoughtful response which could be supported by the world community instead of a violent revenge that would further alienate our country.

Violence begets violence begets violence... This is the never-ending downward spiral of evil which Martin Luther King Jr. preached about. It is all too evident in the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In order to break this vicious cycle and bring about positive change, we must work for solutions to the world problems which show consideration for all people. If we focused on nonviolent solutions and stopped taking more than our share of Earth's resources, the al-Qaida numbers would drop drastically — the anti-U.S. terrorists would no longer have a reason to hate us.

During this past year I have written more letters to the editor; written more letters to elected officials; signed more petitions; and donated more to peace groups than I had in all my previous 50 years.

But there's also another way I seek to promote peace. It is to look on each person I see with kindness, empathy, and goodwill. Perhaps this second way is more effective than all the letter writing.

Linda Ellsworth, Bellevue

'I am a volunteer firefighter'

I'm a teacher and a writer. I'm also a husband and a father. Never in my life did I consider becoming a firefighter, until last September.

After 9/11, I enrolled in firefighter recruit school. Now I'm a volunteer firefighter with Snohomish. I can't describe how fulfilling it is to be doing something directly tied to honoring our fallen firefighters and fellow Americans lost in the attacks, as well as helping to fortify our layers of national security. We train hard once a week and work an overnight shift with our crew every nine days.

It's amazing to be part of a team that cares so much about the needs of people. We work on all kinds of scenarios, any one of which could result from a terrorist strike in the greater Seattle area.

I encourage every able-bodied American to clear out your schedule and make room for some kind of volunteer work. If I can do it, you can do it. If you don't think you have time to volunteer, imagine the sacrifices made last September, and find the time.

Now, when I put on the uniform and head to the station, I hold the memories of so many heroes, so many families minus loved ones, so many innocents and so many patriots in my heart and on my mind. And as I leave, my 3-year-old daughter has gotten into the habit of asking, "Daddy, are you going to help someone?" and I sometimes feel my eyes turn wet because I envy the way she sees the world, and I know that she will someday see the world I see.

And yet, it is up to each of us to preserve the freedom, however imperfect it may be, that will one day safeguard the hopes and dreams of our young children, just as it continues to do so for us.

Chad Donohue, Snohomish

'I didn't know him'

I spent Sept. 11 with my Special Education students at Tyee High School, glued to every image on the TV, of my home town in chaos. My dear students and fellow staff members showed their concern for me, knowing I had family who worked in Manhattan.

We spent the months after Sept. 11 thinking of ways we could heal and take care of our community. We developed a friendship with the SeaTac Fire Department, "adopting" our new-found heroes with banners, letters, and shared visits to the school and the fire station.

Our students and staff planted a Sept. 11 Remembrance Garden, which was ablaze with donated tulips last spring.

As for myself, I visited Ground Zero with my sister this summer to pay respects, to witness history, and to bring part of the experience back to my students this fall. A dear friend gave me a silver memory bracelet to wear, inscribed "Ramon Suarez, NYPD."

Ramon was from Queens, and was working at the Delancey Street subway station when he was called to the WTC. He died saving others. I didn't know him, but the bracelet keeps the memory of September alive for me.

Regina Carretta, Seattle

'Fear grips my heart'

Since 9/11, whenever I pass a car or a building flying the American flag, or a reader board claiming, "In God We Trust," "United We Stand," or "God Bless America," fear grips my heart.

The American flags and messages now conjure terrifying visions of a coming world war that goes on for decades. Economy and morale drained. Germ warfare and dirty nuclear devices deployed on our soil. Fear, depression and paranoia everywhere, especially among our children. No allies. Going it alone. No matter what, to the end. A war we have instigated to bring about "regime change" in Iraq.

I'm afraid these displays of patriotism, once symbols of freedom and pride for me, are now saying, "God's on our side, so we'll get them back for 9/11." I have to wonder about this, because we know that "they" believe God's on their side, too. That's why they're eager to kill themselves for their "holy" war. Holy war — is that an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms? How can any war be holy?

Who is America to claim God's on our side? Where does Bush get off? How can we stop him?

Annie Phillips, Mercer Island

'We can truly help each other'

Nothing about what Osama bin Laden or any other terrorist does is right. But they are the personification of the terrorists in our own hearts that we are always trying to quell: anger, hatred, selfishness, the desire for revenge and so much more. Our fears are that we will be controlled by terrorists.

While we listen to constant overtones of violence and war from our media and the government, I think that, since Sept. 11, 2001, there has been a growing undercurrent of individual people trying to come to peace with themselves and find an internal peace that is more powerful than the anger that is being expressed by people in so-called power.

What I hope I am seeing is a desire to conquer the terrorists from the inside — one person at a time. I think many people are recognizing that where we really need to begin to work for peace is within ourselves. When we can conquer our own demons, then we can begin to conquer those of others and truly help each other.

Pray with me that I am right.

Joanne Hedou, Bothell

'I'm where God wants me'

Since Sept. 11 my biggest goal has been to put my family first. I want to take care of them before anyone. After that I fit in anything else my schedule has room for.

My second goal has been to keep the world which my family lives in as positive as possible. That means I fix problems rather than fix blame. Moreover, instead of looking for problems, I seek out solutions. I've realized that little challenges can either ruin my day or I can overlook the challenges and just decide to have a good day.

Most of all, though, I've decided that God is ultimately in control. It doesn't matter if I'm running late or if I'm waiting in traffic. The bottom line is that I am right where God wants me to be. That decision alone takes all the pressure off. It's not all up to me. And the weight of my world, no matter how small or big it may feel at the moment, does not rest on my shoulders, but his.

Lisa Plancich, Lake Forest Park

'This American is weary'

I am quickly becoming an isolationist. Bring all our troops home, stop sending the hundreds of billions of dollars to countries who love to hate us, secure our borders with our military, kick that joke of a governing body called the U.N. out of our country, develop and deploy our missile defense, and let the rest of the ungrateful, hateful, and hypocritical, world go to... ! Without the U.S. to restrain Communist China and radical Islamic nations, Europe would quickly become only a remembrance.

This American is weary of the Islamic nations' and Europe's constant America-bashing. Their continual blaming of the U.S. for all their home-grown problems is getting very old. They chose their pathetic form of governments, now they can live with the consequences. Socialism, communism, Marxism, radical fundamentalism, and other tyrannical forms of government — not the U.S. — are the root cause of all the misery in this world.

The heart of man craves individual freedom above all else ... none of these other forms of government gives the people that very basic need, and there lies the problem.

Joy Ficken, Auburn

'Right before my eyes'

Sept. 11, 2001, 12:01 p.m.... I'll never forget what it felt like to be sitting on the couch in my living room, where exactly six hours before I saw what I thought to be a horrible accident at the World Trade Center. I had gone to work, listening to the radio in the car, then getting on the bus like every other day. When I got to my office a TV was on in the conference room and I walked in to see the news playing the tape of the south tower collapsing.

It was then that I realized my life as an American would never be the same. Since that day I've learned to appreciate friends and loved ones more. Holiday and birthday phone calls don't seem so hard to make time for; and for the first time I saw the Fourth of July as a truly special day. I found myself taking time on the anniversary of Pearl Harbor to remember those brave men who died in another unexpected attack against the U.S.

Sept. 11 changed our country in so many ways. In a time when nothing made sense, the fact that I was American and proud of it was for the first time in my life right before my eyes in the colors of our flag which never looked prouder or flew higher.

Brian Rogers, Lacey

'Why, why, why?'

My thoughts on Sept. 11 are basically the same as they were a year ago. Why? Why do some people harbor so much hatred? Why did so many innocent people die? Why did God allow any of it to happen? Why, why, why?

As a curious, unseasoned 14-year-old, "Why?" is a question I ask a lot. However, most issues I wonder about lack the magnitude of 9/11.

The other day, while sailing with friends, my 7-year-old brother asked, "Is it true that every question has an answer?"

I quickly replied, "No, some things are unanswerable."

Our friend then responded, "Every question has an answer. We just may not know it yet."

I think there are definite reasons to why the terrorist attacks occurred, but we cannot understand them just yet. Maybe we never will be able to.

Jasmine Henry, Poulsbo

'I think it's war'

I recall my stupefaction as events played out on early-morning television. I realized neither were accidents as the second crash happened before my eyes.

There was a cold rush of fear throughout my body. I flipped the remote from channel to channel. It was the same.

Then, the Pentagon. I woke my husband. "I think we're at war." "What?" He sits up, bleary-eyed, groggy from sleep.

"I think it's war," I repeat softly.

We watch TV, stunned into silence.

Days later, the fear remains. Of what, I'm not sure. Months later, it's there yet, more defined. Fear of the future, for my children, my grandchildren. Fear of losing my rights as an American, gently eroded for years previous; now the government leads a feeding frenzy in the name of national security.

I want to travel to prove my loyalty, my trust in America. I can't think of any place I want to be. Home is so safe.

I'm proud of Americans. Ashamed of those few who harass Muslims and mosques. All roads lead to God. Whatever he's called.

What's wrong here? Companies are going bankrupt, executives robbing them blind. They fall like dominoes. George W. threatens to invade Iraq. Politics has become shameless, selfish, ignorant of what voters need or want. They tell you: work hard, save your money, invest in America. I did. What's left now will never sustain retirement.

9/11 made a big hole in the American Dream. I fiercely love my country, but I don't like being embarrassed by people in business and government.

In the eyes of the rest of the world, their brazen, blatant, self-aggrandizement, shames America. Undermines all we stand for.

Peggi Gates, Renton

'We have the power'

The day after Sept. 11, 2001, I felt compelled to write something on my car's rear window. I chose to use a part of the national anthem: "One Nation, Under God... "

One afternoon I emerged from the grocery store to find a note on my window. The note said, "Where was God on Sept. 11?" My immediate reaction was to say a prayer for the person who left the note. I then tried to imagine what I would have said to this person had he or she asked me the question face to face.

It seems to me that God's light is all around us. The events of 9/11 were not caused by God — they were caused by human beings. God did not allow this to happen — human beings did.

God has been trying to tell us how to live in peace and harmony for thousands of years through his messengers. Abraham, Moses, Zoroaster, Krishna, Buddha, Jesus Christ, Muhammad, the Bab and Baha'u'llah were are all sent to us with the same light of spiritual truth — to do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Each new messenger provides us with more tools to purify our hearts and to create heaven on Earth. We have the power to do this through our actions, and I believe that we not only can do it, we will do it.

Many say the dark force of evil brought about this tragedy, but darkness has no power — it is simply the absence of light. The "Great Satan" is not the United States — it is fanaticism, intolerance and injustice.

Christina Price, Kirkland

'We will deserve what we get'

My life has not changed since Sept. 11 in any noticeable way, but my eyes have certainly been opened as a result of popular knee-jerk reactions to those horrible events. The willingness to give up civil liberties and to deny them to those who fit a certain profile, the support for using torture to retrieve information, the isolationist attitude that America can do everything alone and in accordance with its own rules, the idea that any dissent is un-American, and blindly agreeing with what ever the government says and does.

In a recent speech in Iowa, President Bush said that in America one will find the hardest workers, the best farmers, the best people. I'm sure the good people of Norway, the Netherlands, Brazil, New Zealand, etc., think their citizenry is admirable too. The U.S. has always been wary of nationalism; now our leaders are embracing it.

The real test, in my opinion, will be the November elections. Amid all the flag-waving and God-Bless-America-isms, if the voter turnout rate is still below 50 percent, then Americans simply don't care about how the country is run and by whom. We will deserve what we get.

Debra Haraldson, Bellevue

'We will celebrate'

Like the rest of the world, I couldn't believe what my eyes were seeing on television. Having worked for Boeing for 10 years, it was just unfathomable that a commercial jet could be used as a weapon.

Hardly a day goes by that I don't think about that morning. I fly without hesitation, but I am now guilty of racial profiling of my fellow passengers. I never look at airplanes flying overhead the same anymore. I am no longer naïve to the fact that people in this world truly hate us for what we represent. I am surprised that I don't hate them.

I understand that I don't understand them and probably never will, because my mind can't comprehend what their minds can.

I realize more than ever before how important it is to teach my children about diversity, not only in our nation but also in our world.

Among the sadness of 9/11, I am filled with incredible national pride that I never expected to experience in my lifetime.

On 9/11/02, my husband will turn 40. My family and I will don our patriotic colors, gather with neighbors and friends and honor those who lost their lives on 9/11/01. We will also do something we were unable to bring ourselves to do last year. We will celebrate. We will celebrate this nation that we live in, as well as the birthday we chose to ignore last Sept. 11. We will share a large cake decorated with the American flag.

Karen O'Meara, Sammamish

'We had an opportunity'

After the dust settled on 9/11 we had an opportunity to truly come together as a nation and work on the challenges before us. An opportunity to use the momentum to put a dent in poverty, homelessness and child welfare. An opportunity to understand why some hate our way of life and what we can do to work together to change that. An opportunity to share, help, educate and improve the quality of life for all.

Instead, on the eve of the first anniversary of 9/11, we faced a possible baseball strike. A struggle for millions between the rich and the richer. We are facing corporate fraud where egos overwhelm reason. We are facing child abductions, rape, murder. And we are facing poverty, hunger and sadness.

We are facing basically the same things we were facing before the crumble of the World Trade Center. The loss of life was for naught, but for the excuse to spend millions of dollars to destroy mountains, villages and more human life.

At first it sounded like a good idea to me too, but maybe there is a more peaceful way to prevent this from happening again. We have fallen back into our safe routines.

Thank God the bomb didn't go off in Seattle. We are safe, let's get back to work, play, fun, ignoring our neighbors. "We're at war? Sorry, I'm too busy for that."

John Schuler, Seattle

'Have we forgotten already?'

There is no question that this anniversary will be remembered throughout America's history. The question remains, have we learned from the disaster? Do we continue blindly not judging evil as evil, or sin as sin?

We are here because we took for granted our shores were secure, that no one would do what was done on 9/11.

The lives of the loved ones lost must not be in vain. We must have a new understanding that there are human beings in this world that take their lives and ours as simply bloody stepping stones for their own selfish cause.

Since 9/11, the great rush toward churches and synagogues has all but gone away. Have we forgotten already? Do we really believe we can right this wrong alone without divine assistance?

There are more questions than answers on this anniversary. I hope and pray that our USA will survive the dangers that we cannot see.

Bill Wippel, Normandy Park

'God save us'

God save us from those who kill in your name;

From those who deny heaven to those who follow a different path;

From those who believe they know the only way.

Allen Alston, Seattle

'We have not understood'

My reaction on 9/11 was a spectrum of emotions. I cycled from righteous outrage to disbelief to wrenching grief and back again. As a 68-year-old Navy veteran, I was frustrated that I was no longer fit for active duty. I was akin to a toothless old tiger roaring in grief and outrage because his pride had been attacked by a pack of jackals.

9/11 changed my life and my world. I have spent many hours studying Islam, the Middle East and terrorism. I have searched for answers to a multitude of questions about the Islamic terrorists, our foreign and domestic policy, the nature of man, and why peace seems so elusive.

I have found some answers. Here are a few.

We have been foolish to believe that the Islamic world would readily accept modernity, or to think that we could depend on Middle Eastern Muslim states for precious energy supplies. We failed to recognize the significance of the Mujahedeen "victory" over the Soviets in Afghanistan. Terrorist attacks on U.S. Embassies in Africa and the USS Cole were not taken seriously enough. We have not understood the depth of the tribal/religious hatred of the Arabs for Jews.

We are now engaged in an unwanted war the likes of which we have never seen before.

As unpleasant as it is, we must remind ourselves often that we are facing a ruthless, determined foe and that this war will be a long one. The nature of terrorism places us civilians directly on the front lines.

Our duty is to go about our lives as normally as possible, to try to prevent other attacks by staying alert to what is happening around us, to support our military, and to back our leaders.

Our world has changed.

As Todd Beamer said, "Let's roll!"

Jim Glendenning, Camano Island

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