President George Bush, Washington, D.C.


I sent a letter to President George Bush after the 9/11 attacks, asking for his response to the tragedy. Below is a copy of a letter I received in the mail from the White House. 


In Memory of Yvette Nicole Moreno: Ivy Moreno

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.

Bronx, New York

Ivy M. Moreno, a law firm manager, is the bereaved yet proud mother of Yvette Nicole  Moreno – a beautiful, cheerful and compassionate 24-year-old who died in the World Trade Center disaster. Ivy, who is Catholic, was born in Bronx, New York, where she continues to live today with her son. On the morning of Sept. 11, Ivy was at home getting ready for work. She wrote her tribute, “In Honor of Yvette Nicole Moreno,” on July 23, 2002.

Yvette Nicole Moreno lived life to its fullest. She always had a smile on her face – described by her friends as a “Kool-Aid” smile. Yvette was a wonderful and loving daughter, sister and friend. She truly enjoyed being with her family and friends, whether having dinner, dancing, playing cards or just talking. Yvette was beautiful – inside and out. She was always a very thoughtful and considerate person; a bright and happy young lady with a great future ahead of her.

Yvette was working full-time while at the same time attending college full-time. She first attended Hunter College and she had just transferred and started a new semester at Lehman College. She was on the Dean’s List at Hunter; she was planning to continue her education by receiving her Master’s Degree. Her major was sociology and her minor was psychology; she wanted to be a guidance counselor for teenagers who she felt needed more guidance but had the least resources available. She would have graduated May 2002. Yvette had great potential.

My name is Ivy Moreno. I am the bereaved but proud mother of World Trade Center Disaster Victim, Yvette Nicole Moreno, and I write this tribute in honor of my daughter who passed from this earth as a “hero.”

My beautiful daughter was a receptionist at Carr Futures, Inc., One World Trade Center. Yvette was 24 years old. She was single, living at home with me and her brother and she was of Hispanic nationality. Yvette was found on a World Trade Center overpass on her 25th birthday, October 4, 2001.

Few mothers are blessed with a wonderful daughter such as Yvette. As she became older, we became good friends. She shared her life with me, she respected me and sought my advice; she truly did her part in making our relationship work. My heart swelled with pride always. Yvette taught me about unconditional love, mutual respect and so much more. We were the “Wind beneath (each other’s) Wings.”

Yvette is missed very, very much by me, her brother, her family and friends. We miss her hugs, her kisses, her laugh – we miss everything about her. She had a cheerful nature, a good heart and a beautiful laugh. Yvette had an inner beauty that shone outward – a gift from God.

Two scholarships, one at Cathedral High School and one at Lehman College, have been set up in Yvette’s name; I have had a brick placed in front of a chapel in her memory; quilts are being made in her honor. Through all these tributes and through all our cherished memories, Yvette Nicole Moreno will always live on in our minds, hearts and souls.

Hugs and kisses from Mommy, May She Rest in Peace, My Beautiful Angel.

Yvel Guelce, Indiana

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.

Indianapolis, Indiana

Friends like Yvel Guelcé are hard to come by. The 23-year-old was born in Port Au Prince, Haiti, and moved to New York City when he was around 9 years old. He and his beloved pit bull, Stash, came to Indianapolis, Indiana, in 2001. Today, Yvel is a computer technician at the NCAA headquarters in downtown Indianapolis and works part-time at Pier1 Imports. He is also attending computer school. Yvel’s passions include basketball, music, celebrating his culture and helping his family and friends. He is Baptist. Yvel was at work when terrorists struck America. He wrote his essay in early October. It is titled, “God bless America. Then Try Again.”

Sometimes I sit back and try to figure out what would drive people to commit these awful crimes. And I came to a conclusion. We are human beings; we don’t react without cause and reason. That is what the media overlooks, but it is not our fault we rely on the information provided to us. There are always two sides to a story. It just happens to be that we, because of the media, possibly will never know the other side to this story. We just sit there blaming these guys for this terrible thing they did. Don’t get me wrong – they should be blamed for killing over 5,000 innocent bystanders – but I’m sure there is a reason. Only God and the so-called government will ever know what really went on that caused all those innocent people to die.

The government lets us know what it believes we should. For example, on Sept. 11, 2001, it was announced that four planes had been hijacked by terrorists. Two of them crashed into the Trade Center in New York City, one of them crashed into the Pentagon in Washington D.C., and the fourth one supposedly crashed somewhere in Pennsylvania. No further details on that plane. Reason being we shouldn’t know what really happened, because the media would not know how to handle the fact the plane was shot down by the U.S. military. Eyewitnesses stated they saw the plane being shot down. I only saw that on the news once.

Willy Drieux, Belgium

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.

Brussels, Belgium

Willy Drieux, 31, was born in France and today lives in Brussels, Belgium, where he works as a computer specialist in the European Parliament. This kindhearted and thoughtful man is single and describes himself as a “lonely heart.” Willy was at work when he first heard about the Sept. 11 attack. He sent his letter Sept. 24.

J’ai failli te retourner un “e-mail” complètement vide (blanc). Car les mots ne sont que des mots et expriment difficilement les sentiments et la réelle pensée des choses. Un silence, un sourire dans la rue, une poignée de mains sont plus riches que de longs discours.

J’ai préféré malgré tout rédiger quelques lignes car je pense que tu n’aurais pas saisi l’intention: un message de compassion, d’amitié, de soutien et d’espoir exprimé sans artifice (sans aucun mot).

Il est vrai que tu viens de retrouver le stylo que je t’avais offert lors de ton départ. Il est à déplorer que tu ne l’utilise que dans un si tragique moment. J’espère que tu en feras bon usage pour la suite. Si ma mémoire est bonne, tu voulais devenir journaliste. J’espère que c’est le cas. Tu es alors une ambassadrice pour la paix pour tous les peuples de toutes les religions. Même si à mes yeux, le silence est plus significatif que les mots, les mots sont bien plus forts que les armes.

Comment ne pas avoir une pensée pour toutes les victimes innocentes, pour leurs familles, leurs amis et leur pays. A l’aide de ton intermédiaire, présente leurs toutes mes condoléances et ma sympathie. Que mon soutien les accompagne dans leur désarroi et leur profonde tristesse.

Je comprends néanmoins le sentiment de vengeance et de justice qui habitent toutes les personnes touchées pas cette ignominie.

Médite seulement cette citation de Jean-Paul Sartre: “Il suffit qu’un seul homme en haïsse un autre pour que la haine gagne de proche en proche l’humanité entière.”

English translation:

I nearly sent you back a completely blank e-mail. For words are only words and cannot express feelings and people’s real thoughts. Silence, a smile in the street, a handshake are richer than long speech.

However, I preferred to write some lines, as I think you wouldn’t have understood my intention: a message of compassion, friendship, support and hope expressed without any artifice (without any words).

It’s true that you have re-found the pen I gave you when you left. It is a shame that you only use it now, in such a tragic moment. I hope you will use it well from now on. If my memory is correct, you wished to become a journalist. I hope this is the case. You are, thus, an ambassadress of peace for all the people, of all religions. Even though, to my eyes, silence is more significant than words, words are stronger than weapons.

How can one not have thoughts for all the innocent victims, for their families, their friends and their countries. With your help – through this project – I present to them all my condolences and sympathies. May my support accompany them in their confusion and profound sadness.

I understand, nevertheless, the feeling of revenge and justice held by all of the living people concerned about this shameful act.

Think only of this quote by Jean-Paul Sartre: “It only takes one man to hate another for hate to spread from one to another to humanity as a whole.”

William Harvey, New York

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.

New York, New York

William Raccoli Harvey is a 19-year-old musician who was born in Flint, Michigan, and today calls Indianapolis, Indiana, home. Last year, William studied at the Juilliard School in New York City, one of the world’s most prestigious academies for performing arts. In the fall of 2002, he will attend Indiana University, where he plans to pursue a double major in violin and composition. His family members include his father, Jay Harvey; mother, Susan Raccoli; and brother, Theodore, 24. William was at school in New York City on Sept. 11 and wrote his letter the following week. As he explains, “Originally, this was a letter to my family and friends. They forwarded it to other people without my knowledge, which is how it circulated.” William’s story has been featured in several print and online publications, including Reader’s Digest, Baltimore Sun, The Indianapolis Star, Dayton Daily News and The Flint Journal, among others. His letter will also be featured in an upcoming Prentice-Hall writing textbook and a book called “Courage to Give.”

Monday, Sept. 17

Yesterday I had probably the most incredible and moving experience of my life. Juilliard organized a quartet to go play at the Armory. The Armory is a huge military building where families of people missing from Tuesday’s disaster go to wait for news of their loved ones. Entering the building was very difficult emotionally, because the entire building (the size of a city block) was covered with missing posters. Thousands of posters spread out up to eight feet above the ground, each featuring a different, smiling face.

I made my way into the huge central room and found my Juilliard buddies. For two hours we sight-read quartets (with only three people!), and I don’t think I will soon forget the grief counselor from the Connecticut State Police who listened the entire time, or the woman who listened only to “Memory” from Cats, crying the whole time. At 7 p.m., the other two players had to leave; they had been playing at the Armory since 1 and simply couldn’t play any more.

I volunteered to stay and play solo, since I had just got there. I soon realized that the evening had just begun for me: a man in fatigues who introduced himself as Sergeant Major asked me if I’d mind playing for his soldiers as they came back from digging through the rubble at Ground Zero. Masseuses had volunteered to give his men massages, he said, and he didn’t think anything would be more soothing than getting a massage and listening to violin music at the same time. So at 9 p.m., I headed up to the second floor as the first men were arriving. From then until 11:30, I played everything I could do from memory: Bach B Minor Partita, Tchaikovsky Concerto, Dvorak Concerto, Paganini Caprices 1 and 17, Vivaldi Winter and Spring, Theme from Schindler’s List, Tchaikovsky Melodie, Meditation from Thais, Amazing Grace, My Country ‘Tis of Thee, Turkey in the Straw, Bile Them Cabbages Down.

Never have I played for a more grateful audience. Somehow it didn’t matter that by the end, my intonation was shot and I had no bow control. I would have lost any competition I was playing in, but it didn’t matter. The men would come up the stairs in full gear, remove their helmets, look at me, and smile.

At 11:20, I was introduced to Colonel Slack, head of the division. After thanking me, he said to his friends, “Boy, today was the toughest day yet. I made the mistake of going back into the pit, and I’ll never do that again.” Eager to hear a first-hand account, I asked, “What did you see?” He stopped, swallowed hard, and said, “What you’d expect to see.” The Colonel stood there as I played a lengthy rendition of “Amazing Grace” that he claimed was the best he’d ever heard.

By this time it was 11:30, and I didn’t think I could play anymore. I asked Sergeant Major if it would be appropriate if I played the National Anthem. He shouted above the chaos of the milling soldiers to call them to attention, and I played the National Anthem as the 300 men of the 69th Division saluted an invisible flag.

After shaking a few hands and packing up, I was prepared to leave when one of the privates accosted me and told me the Colonel wanted to see me again. He took me down to the War Room, but we couldn’t find the Colonel, so he gave me a tour of the War Room. It turns out that the division I played for is the Famous Fighting 69th, the most decorated division in the U.S. Army. He pointed out a letter from Abraham Lincoln offering his condolences after the Battle of Antietam … the 69th suffered the most casualties of any division in that historic battle. Finally, we located the Colonel. After thanking me again, he presented me with the coin of the regiment. “We only give these to someone who’s done something special for the 69th,” he informed me. He called over the division’s historian to tell me the significance of all the symbols on the coin.

As I rode the taxi back to Juilliard … free, of course, since taxi service is free in New York right now … I was numb. Not only was this evening the proudest I’ve ever felt to be an American, it was my most meaningful as a musician and as a person as well. At Juilliard, kids are hypercritical of each other and very competitive. The teachers expect, and in most cases get, technical perfection. But this wasn’t about that. The soldiers didn’t care that I had so many memory slips I lost count. They didn’t care that when I forgot how the second movement of the Tchaik went, I had to come up with my own insipid improvisation until I somehow (and I still don’t know how) got to a cadence. I’ve never seen a more appreciative audience, and I’ve never understood so fully what it means to communicate music to other people.

And how did it change me as a person? Let’s just say that next time I want to get into a petty argument about whether Richter or Horowitz was better, I’ll remember that when I asked the Colonel to describe the pit formed by the tumbling of the Towers, he couldn’t. Words only go so far, and even music can only go a little further from there.

Tom Carpenter, 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.

Flagstaff, Arizona

Thomas Michael Carpenter is the kind of teacher who fuels your fire. The 48-year-old was born in Kingman, Arizona. Today, he lives in Flagstaff, where he serves as assistant director of graduate services for Northern Arizona University. He and his wife, Kathleen, have a son, James. Sept. 11 was off to a peaceful start when Tom heard the news. “I had just come home from an exceptionally spiritual and rejuvenating morning walk when Kathleen told me a plane had crashed into the WTC. I watched the second plane hit.” The day after, Tom wrote, “How Deep is the Ocean?” It ran in the “The Arizona Daily Sun” on Sept. 16.

I went for a swim once near the equator in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Our ship had just completed several days of maneuvers and drills, and the Captain rewarded our hard work with a Sunday afternoon barbecue and swim call.

The ship floated on a calm sea. On the helo deck, stewards cooked hamburgers on grills fabricated from fifty-five gallon drums. Armed men stood watch on upper levels, keeping their eyes peeled for sharks, while shipmates frolicked in the water like sea otters.

I stood on the fantail for a long time looking at the place where sea and sky converged. There was not a breath of wind and no other ships in sight. There were no seabirds, no clouds, just blue and bluer to all horizons. If not for the equatorial heat radiating from the steel hull and the catcalls from my bobbing buddies, I might never have jumped, but I did, finally, feet first and afraid.

I struggled to the surface, rising faster than my bubbles. The water was warmer than I expected, and saltier. Frantically at first, I treaded water, then gradually settled down and relaxed a bit.

I swam a short distance away from the hull and turned my back to the ship. The hoots and chatter of my shipmates faded from my consciousness as I became aware of the great depth open to me, cooling my shimmering feet, releasing me from my fears.

As if at the cusp of faith and reason, two densities of the same substance, I dangled there, my lily-white legs shimmering below the surface of a vast unknown.

If faith asks of us to forgive, and reason tells us to take steps to insure nobody gets away with terrorism against us ever again, what are we supposed to do? What choice do we make? Which test should we choose to pass? If we choose to pass that test of our resolve inflicted by our enemies, then everybody please pay attention because somebody is in for a serious ass-kicking.

But what about the other test, the one that tests our capacity for forgiveness? Surely there is no reason to forgive. How can those of us who have not suffered direct loss even suggest that forgiveness is an option? Hundreds of miles away from the death and destruction, untouched but for unrelenting news coverage, how can I even speak of forgiveness toward those who are responsible; especially now, while so many dead have yet to be buried?

Why? Because, forgiveness is – must – always be an option. In the sky, I see the reckoning reason requires rising like a mushroom cloud. I also feel the pull of that deep and vast unknown realm of forgiveness. Yet, the depth to which forgiveness reaches frightens me. What would it mean to forgive? How vulnerable does it make me? How does anyone forgive this? Even if our leaders were to tell us that our unilateral and irrevocable response to this heinous act of terrorism will be forgiveness, who would listen, who would agree? Who can argue with those who can’t forgive, who won’t forgive, who don’t know how?

With reason, the way is clear. We know what lies ahead – retribution upon retribution.

Forgiveness is the great unknown. Beneath it lurks the terrible leviathans of fear and doubt. Will we be devoured in our forgiveness? Will forgiveness bring upon us only more outrages, more sorrow? Or will it ultimately save us all? As a nation, we cannot know, unless we immerse ourselves, one by one, soul by soul, in forgiveness.

Tina Maldonado, Illinois

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.

Chicago, Illinois

Christina Marie Maldonado – known by pals as Tina – lives in Chicago, where she studies nursing and psychology at Loyola University and works at the University of Chicago Hospital. This sassy and intuitive gal has spent most of her 25 years of life in Arizona, where her dear parents and siblings still live. Passions include running, volunteering, movies, music, backpacking, hiking, camping, reading and traveling. Tina has thoroughly explored the United States and has made numerous ventures into Mexico. She hopes to eventually wander through Europe and join the Peace Corps. Tina began watching the Sept. 11 horror unfold at approximately 8:50 a.m. on the “Today” show. Her remarks spilled out around five days later.

Oh my god! Oh god … what’s happening?!?! As if “god” – this higher celestial being with absolute, unconditional love and guide of the universe would let September 11th happen. Or could he … I wonder.

I wonder if not having a solid faith in this supposed lover of all things, creator and protector of humanity and heart, has hindered my absorption of this horrific tragedy. All over the world people are looking to god, asking god, praying to god, begging god for a miracle to find their loved one’s body. Filled with pain, pleading and crying to god for a miracle. Why? If god looks upon us as his children, why would he allow such sorrow to take over so many lives? If not more now than any other time in my life, do I hate such a god. This will take over lives completely. Forever.

Forever I am changed. I will not ever, ever say goodbye to mom or papa without letting them know how much they mean to me. “Taking for granted” is something I can never see myself doing again. The dollar bill will not mean the same thing to me any longer. I will not use the phrase “Someday, I will …” because tomorrow could be my last someday. Tomorrow I will make one person feel good about themselves, or at least crack a smile. Maybe that smile will kill them with the kindness they need to snap out of that shitty mood … that’s not doing anyone any good. Living a life worth living is something the rest of my forever will be. Someday is now.

Someday, I’ll quit smoking. Fuck it – I quit yesterday and my day sucked. It was filled with apprehension and constant longing for a drag. Fuck it – we’re going to be bombed, Anthraxed, or go crashing down into a fucking cornfield. That last cigarette may be just what I need. And what if I would’ve quit? The quality of my last days may be hell because those damn “DON’T START” ads started to get to me. I’m justifying … because that’s what you do when things like health are still important, not worrying about thousands of innocent people being murdered within an hour. I don’t know anymore. Maybe I’ll quit and use that stressful-nicotine-deprived energy to focus on more important, less trivial things. Simple things. Making people smile.

Smiling? How in the hell can you be smiling at a time like this! I can’t sleep, can’t eat, can’t hold down tea … and you want normalcy to kick in? Go through the motions of a day without an emotional breakdown? You mean, I’m not supposed to cry at school? On the train? I have to get out of bed today? How do I not react in the craziest ways for the millions of people affected by this? Every minute of every day? How dare I not drop my piddly ass bullshit I go through day in, day out and mourn for this horrific tragedy and the loss of so many lives.

Lives that will be merely a memorial, a memory, a celebration, a tombstone (for the lucky ones whose body part (s) are found). I am beyond words. I am beyond angered. I am livid. I am so scared of what is to come and so scared there are people existing in this world that are capable of September 11th. I fear for my nephew, who at his tender age of one has no understanding of how this could affect his life.

The frustration in my head is hurting my stomach. My spirit is broken. Humanity has broken my heart in a way it’s never been broken. Wounded. My discouragement now is not even comparable to my most discouraging moments in all 25 years of my life. I am freaking out … will this help anyone? Probably not. Medication? Only to sleep again. But is there something I can take to make me dream well again? I need that … good dreams. I need to have faith. I need to feel resilience. I need to be the whole person I was, not the crumbled mess I feel like now. I need to feel hope again. I guess I need to find hope first. I need to feel that my world and the people I love and care about are safe and not wondering about an end … like I am now. Will there ever be a time like that again? I feel the worst is yet to come.