Holly Dana, Arizona

Editor’s Note: The essay below was written in 2001 and appears in the self-published book, Through Our Eyes: A Tapestry of Words and Images in Response to September 11. Printed and distributed in 2002, the book was the result of an independent, volunteer documentary project organized by a journalist and several friends. The author’s bio was written in 2002 and has not been updated.

Tempe, Arizona

Holly Rochelle Dana is a funky woman always up for an adventure. The bohemian 26-year-old recently moved to Pacific Beach, California, from her native town of Phoenix, Arizona – one of the countless places she’s shacked up in over the years (Montana, Oregon, Colorado, Utah, South Carolina). Holly is planning to finish up her business degree and pursue a career in real estate. Her passions abound: traveling, animals (especially her dog and cat), gardening, protecting the environment, riding her cruiser, chatting with friends, indie rock, punk rock, classical music, etc. A few of her top ten escapades include sunbathing topless in France, visiting Jim Morrison’s grave, seeing Fugazi play in Germany and smoking hash for the first time.

As she describes, “I like to be as independent and original as possible – non-conforming. I like to take a little bit of everyone and be a part of every group.” Holly adds that she grew up in a strict Mormon family but now questions organized religion, or more pointedly, the forcefulness with which it is presented. “I have spent half my life deprogramming information that I took in as truth before my brain could process abstract thoughts, which if you think about it, religion is. So, I would say my religion is a belief, which cannot be part of an organized religion because, by my definition, belief is individualized.”

On the morning of Sept. 11, Holly was on her way to work, listening to Howard Stern on the radio. He was giving a live broadcast, and at first, she thought the United Nations was under attack. She wrote her essay Oct. 9.

To the ignorant, it is racial. To the ones in power, it is war. How do we change, trust those who look and act like you? We are all brothers, sisters … Why do we hate, where did we find enemies along the way? Over what, religion? … Someone pushing ideas upon others. And how does bloodshed rectify anything? What we don’t know is what lies ahead …

One thing is certain: Freedom has gained a glimmer. It is even more powerful, and our flag shines brighter now than ever with the pride Americans feel for it. Let freedom guide the way … I have never seen so many American flags gracing the houses, on cars, T-shirts, pins worn on clothing. We are proud to be Americans.

As the shock and horror have settled, we will not forget. Our happiness subsided, our love ones prayed for, and our freedom suffering with lives lost. The ignorance is both ours and the enemy’s. Our ignorance was to feel such a shock when we live in a world that we think we can ignore. There is so much pain and bloodshed every day; ours is but a nick. With open arms we welcome everyone to enjoy our country, but losing our loved ones is salt in the wounds that were inflicted and slashed into freedom. Ignorance is all over the world, and with a little money behind it, this is the face of our enemy. For the illiterate Afghanis, the lies are truth, religion is their love, happiness they cannot have without freedom. Education is religion, and bloodshed is the stepping-stone to the freedom of their religion. A dark man who hides behind religion leads his sheep down a twisted path. He inherited $80 million at a young age and recruits terrorists with food and mere dollars to the poverty stricken for which they have no choice but to accept, and even those who don’t accept are forced.

If we are fighting ignorance, it is essential to find a less barbaric effort than a war. This is exactly what they want – a war to end our freedom and feelings of safety on American soil. Americans are not as safe as we like to think. I know here in Arizona, our water supply is one of our most treasured treats, along with the Hoover Dam – and they are both threatened. We can even find the enemies walking down the streets of our hometowns. Eating lunch at a restaurant in my neighborhood, called Long Wong’s, the FBI was tracking a terrorist’s credit card. I overheard a waitress in the restroom talking to another waitress, asking if they had called back again to investigate further. Let’s just put it this way: I walked to that restaurant.

Those who have been directly affected are in terror. One of my best friends, her sister was regularly scheduled on that flight from Boston to San Francisco and had taken five days off when the terrorists attacked. She has lost many co-workers and has had to attend several funerals. One of my other best friends was in Europe at the time for her first visit and she wanted nothing more than to come home. A few weeks later, her friend was on a train in Paris and asked two Afghanis for directions. They asked him if he was American, he replied “yes” and they asked where he was from. He replied “New York.” They stabbed him nearly to death and as they did, chanted holy war in their native tongue.

My heart goes out to all who are suffering and those who have lost. I pray for you, our country, economy, our safety, here and throughout the world, not only Americans but for all the lovers of freedom. Let it shine BRIGHT.

When I first heard the news, I was driving to work and was listening to Howard Stern. I thought the United Nations was under attack, until listening further to find out it was the World Trade Center. But as I reflect, it might as well have been. I am extremely thankful for all the countries we have support from. This brings tears to my eyes that we can stand together. Think of how our forefathers would have felt. It gives me hope in humanity and maybe one day we can all stand as one.


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