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.

Tim Allen, California

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.

Redlands, California

Timothy Crane Allen is a man of faith and integrity who takes tremendous pride in his work and his family. Tim, 38, was born in Ridgecrest, California, and today lives in Redlands, California, with his wife, Laurie, and their son, Zachary, 5. For nearly 9 years, Tim worked as a journalist, mostly in the area of sports. In 2000, he won the Hoosier State Press Association Award for Best Sports Columnist and second place in the best columnist category from the Society of Professional Journalists. In 2002, he resigned from the Indiana newspaper where he had worked for several years to take a teaching position in his native state. He now teaches digital imaging and graphics at La Sierra High School in Riverside, California.Tim’s interests include computer games, sports, Christian novels, and action/adventure/sci-fi movies. He is Southern Baptist.

When the Sept. 11 tragedy started to unfold, Tim was asleep. “I think the most frightening thing about waking up the morning of Sept. 11 was the sound in my wife’s voice. After 10 years of marriage, there was a tinge in her voice that I had never heard – not  sorrow, joy, anger or despair. It was a sound that moments later echoed in my head and my heart as I watched the planes slam headlong into the twin towers over and over again. I was called into the newsroom of The Herald Bulletin newspaper (Anderson, Ind.) just hours after the attacks. I was placed in the unique position of bureau chief for the entire cnhi media chain, dispersing photos and stories to some 100 papers around the midwestern and eastern portions of the country. It was surreal to see all of the photos being rushed across the Associated Press wire. Perhaps the most shocking were the dozens of newspaper fronts from papers around the country and around the world, all giving their spin on the horrific event. But I also remember taking some solace in what I saw happen in our newsroom that day. I saw a group of people who typically work well together become something extraordinary in the face of covering THE biggest news story of our lifetime. It was a small reflection of the hundreds of rescue personnel who rushed into the burning towers, and the countless policemen and medical personnel who immediately sprang into action. It was a small microcosm of America doing what it does best – rising to the occasion.” Tim wrote his submission July 1, 2002.

I was fast asleep the day of the attacks. And a gentle nudge from my wife brought me back from a peaceful slumber to a world that will never be the same.

I had “survived” the riots in Los Angeles following the Rodney King trial, and had been on watch in a newsroom when the newsflash came in about the Oklahoma City bombing. And while both were huge stories here in the states, my news-sense told me that they were but blips on the international radar.

But from the moment I realized that the disasters of Sept. 11 were no accident, I knew the rules by which America had been playing politically were yesterday’s news.

I could only watch as NBC’s Matt Lauer commentated over the replay of the second jet slamming into the second tower. It appeared from the right, disappeared momentarily behind the smoking target of the initial airliner, and slammed headlong into its twin. I watched it over and over on other news stations as well, all the while trying to recover from the sense of numbness that had washed over me.

Just when I thought I had a handle on things, reports of a third crash at the Pentagon came in. And then a fourth jet, somewhere near Pennsylvania, was either heading back toward Washington D.C. or had crashed into a field.

I knew that then that as Americans, we had been asleep at the wheel. As a nation, we’d paid lip service to countries like Israel and Kuwait, telling them to just hang in there and that things would eventually get better. We told them it was their war, not ours. How wrong we were.

These are times that I am sure my father would not have been able to handle; it seems like a kind gesture by God that he took my dad home in April of 2001. But I still have someone else to look over and wonder how this has affected his view – my son.

As time passed, moments came that helped my family and I restore our faith in this country, its people and our ability to defend ourselves. But none reaffirmed my own sense of security more than a drive with my son through the Indiana countryside one crisp November morning.

My wife and I weren’t too sure just how much the events of Sept. 11 had affected Zachary, but I quickly found out. While heading for a local lumberyard, I caught my 4-year-old praying in his car seat next to me – unprovoked with his head bowed, eyes closed and hands gently folded in his lap. I stole glimpses of him while watching the road, and when we hit a stoplight, he opened his eyes and looked at me with a grin on his face.

“What were you doing there son?” I queried.

“Praying,” he responded.

“For what?”

“Two things,” he said. “I was praying for all of those people that died in those buildings that blowed up, and all of the firemen that went in there and got killed.”

My heart swelled with emotion, pride beaming from my eyes as a large smile washed over my face. “That’s a very good thing, Zachary. And, what was the second thing you were praying for?”

“That you and mommy would have a baby brother.”

As the light changed and I pulled away, it was as if God spoke to me and said, “See, everything will be just fine.”

As I’ve thought about my son’s prayer and his response to the Sept. 11 attacks in recent months, I’ve come to conclude that God is in control of it all. That while we may not see the immediate benefit of the horrific assaults against our nation that day, God knows that they will work a greater good in the long run.

It seems to me as with many problems of the past, we have brought these new issues somewhat upon ourselves. We allowed these terrorists to roam free in our land, but only because we want to believe the best in everyone – regardless of skin color or national origin. But if we deny anyone any measure of these freedoms, then our 226-year experiment in democracy has failed.

I believe that we, as a nation, must determine our priorities. Liberty is a great thing, assuming you’re around to enjoy it. So we may have to allow government agencies to share information in order to catch terrorists and criminals. We may have to go through a few extra checks to get licenses for cars and guns. And we may have to spend a few more hours at the airport in order to prevent more hijackings.

And so it lies with each of us to be more informed, more aware and forever more vigilant. While some are scared or scoff at the idea, it is every citizen’s responsibility to get more involved, watch out for their neighbor and to make sure that our government of the people, by the people and for the people never perishes from the earth.

Teacher & Her Students, New York

Editor’s Note: The letters below were written in 2001 and appear 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.

Long Island, New York

Like many across America, a Long Island elementary school teacher and her students were not content to sit still in the wake of the Sept. 11 tragedy. Below are letters the students sent to New York City rescue workers Sept. 20, along with an introductory letter written by their teacher.

Our trust and security shattered in a heartbeat. Teaching to children who we know will grow up in a different environment than we did, knowing the word “terrorist” years before their time. Also, knowing another meaning for hatred. It is a new experience for all of us.

In one of the letters, an eight-year-old is scared because so many rescue workers got killed. “Now if it ever happens again, who will be there to help?” Some wish they didn’t live in this great city and had to go home to crying parents. Another student calls the day a “911.” We could smell the smoke here in our Long Island enclave of privacy and peace.

Almost everyone knows someone who died. We know the parents of a fine twenty-three-year-old who died along with 700 other workers in the bond firm of Cantor Fitzgerald (this left 1,500 children without at least one parent.). Just one week earlier, she told her parents that money wasn’t everything and she was going to pursue a master’s degree in social work at Berkley. This is unthinkable for any parent, and we all grieve with them and wonder and hope that they can truly go on and enjoy life again. Their strong family and friends will be there for them, but this void will leave a permanent hole in their hearts forever. Just the thought leaves the rest of us numb, and we too fear for our cherished families.

The students…


















Talise Dow, 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.

Portland, Oregon

The world beats wildly inside Stacey Talise Dow, a vivacious 25-year-old who grew up in Tucson, Arizona, and today lives in Portland, Oregon. Talise holds down an assortment of jobs: volunteer coordinator for a science museum, Spanish science educator, physical therapy assistant, community news anchorwoman. Her passions include dancing, hiking, snowboarding, writing, leisure biking and, of course, exploring. Her adventuresome spirit has taken her to places such as Cuba, Nicaragua, Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico and Hong Kong, and she has wandered throughout Europe and the United States. On the morning of Sept. 11, Talise was in her living room watching television. She put pen to paper Sept. 11, Oct. 28, Nov. 14 and Nov. 19.

I awoke the morning of September 11th to a phone call from my best friend. “Look at what they’re doing to your country,” she said in a voice I had never heard from her before. The time was 7:20, and I turned on the television seconds before the second World Trade Center tower dropped to the ground.

Confusion. Illusion. Interlude. “Holy Mother Fucking Shit You Guys!” I screamed. “Get Out Here!”

My roommate was in the bedroom with her ex-boyfriend. I know that she had tried to be discreet with his nightly sleepovers because she felt guilty about her lingering intimacy with him. But now was no time for respecting discretion. Whether shitting, fucking, fingering, whoring, it did not matter; right now, this early morning minute usurped the attention of everyone in America.

We all stared stupefied at the wretchedness unfolding before our very eyes on the TV. The lives being lost were such an abstract idea, the disappearance of the towers, surreal. (Surreal: a word I have noticed has become a fixture among peoples’ daily vocabulary.) But I also thought about those blissful few who were still unaware of what had happened. I knew that this event had just tainted millions of lives in a way that was absolutely irreparable. A shiver borne from a very deep abyss within my psyche crept over me.

I knew at that instant that our lives had changed forever. I felt that there was no longer any sense in trying to make tiny ripples in the ebb and flow of the world when something like this can come along in an instant like a tsunami and wipe out every small endangered chance and hope that ever existed to make the world a more peaceful place.

I knew that my generation finally had a definitive disaster and probably war by which to define itself – by which to account for all the countless future political and economic crashes that were sure to soon follow.

I had always had a wild imagination when it came to terrorism and conspiracy, but I can’t say that I ever believed something like this would happen in my lifetime.

I know I will not know the freedom I have enjoyed in this country and in this world the same way again. It saddens me that Afghanistan is now a place I will never be able to visit. And I hate that now the Bush administration can and will do almost anything “for the sake of national security.” Goodbye environmental preservation and presumed innocence, and pocketknives on airplanes. John Ashcroft is now even finding time to go after Oregon’s assisted suicide law!

I cannot say that I fell deeply into the schism of consumer-patriotism. I was gone from the USA this past year and my ties to Americanism were still a little weak at the time of the attack. My heart has tasted some of the tragedies other nations of the world must endure on a daily basis because of United States policy. This is, of course, no justification for what happened. I have tried to feel around for what is right on a global scale. But I have never considered war to be the answer.

I wonder what America stands for more often than I used to. I wonder, if the Taliban were to start making a state-of-the-art computer chip or some other thing of American value, would we buy it?

I don’t really know that we wouldn’t.

I guess I’m just tired of men molding the world with their pricks.