Special Reports

Attacks still evoke anger, sorrow, suspicion

Suzan Albrecht, 46

She is the co-owner of Sunrise Espresso, a streetfront shop that sells coffee and collectibles in the tiny town of Wilkeson. She sat at a table outside the storefront, enjoying a quiet day and musing on small-town comforts. A South Hill resident, she is married, with six grown children.

We had a jar to collect money for the victims. The fourth-grade class drew flags, and the town voted on winners. We had the store decorated with red, white and blue themes, but we took them down last week.

(On Sept. 11) we were just devastated. Everybody came in the shop and set up their chairs around the TV. That's all that was talked about around here. There was so much concern for all those people.

I fear the anniversary, that it could happen again. The reality is it could be anywhere, and it's not over. I'm much more careful at night, checking the locks, the alarms. I don't feel as safe. You just don't trust quite as easily. I'm always aware in the store when a stranger comes in. I am more cautious of it since. I stand by my screen door so I can yell. I'm more quickly aware, and I'll move to the door. I won't stay in the back of the store. But I won't keep a gun here.

Marla Nevill, 42

Married, with three daughters, she is the town clerk in the Pierce County town of South Prairie, population 435. She has always lived in small towns, from her current home in Buckley to the eastern Oregon city of LaGrande, where she grew up. She works in the town hall, a small office with a bulletin board advertising local public meetings. A flag sticker with "United We Stand" adorns the corner of a window. As she speaks of the attacks, tears fill her eyes, and she reaches for a tissue.

I was at home. My husband woke me up and told me. I saw the second plane. It was a huge shock. It's a huge tragedy, that in a country where we feel so safe, that something of this magnitude could happen.

I think that it brought our country together. I think that people took more time to help out their fellow man - more time to enjoy the small things in life, your family.

Leroy Serosky, 74

He lives on Highway 162 near Ranch Creek. The mailing address is Orting, but the town isn't that close. He grew up in Kapowsin and got a job working for the Milwaukee Railroad at age 14. He has also worked in a brickyard and a rock quarry, and as an all-purpose employee for the City of Orting. He is retired now and sells corn and other goods from his small farm. He sat in an old lawn chair, wearing a baseball cap to shade his eyes from the sun, occasionally shushing a small dog.

I was right here. I think I was selling corn. I was watching the news in the morning. I get up early. I saw (the planes) hit. My son-in-law lives in Sequim - he called me and said, "Did you see that?"

The people in New York, they probably got all excited, but I didn't. I watched it, but I never got too excited about it. I got a lot more excited when they hit Pearl Harbor. That was pretty close to the coast here. We didn't know what was going to happen.

Those people that got killed, those firemen and them cops - that's their job. I don't know what the big deal is. Some poor sonofabitch out here works in a ditch all his life, he gets killed, they just move on, you know. I think it's kind of overkill.

Lorenzo Ortiz, 30, and Maira Castanon, 31

They live in Auburn. He works for a shipping company; she is a student at Green River Community College. They have been together for 11 years and have two children. They spent a recent afternoon at the Auburn Good Old Days celebration, eating barbecued chicken and corn at a picnic table.

Ortiz: I didn't believe it at first. I thought it was like a stunt. It was really weird. When I got to work it was quiet. In the lunchroom people were crying, and then I saw it on TV. I was in disbelief.

I saw the second plane. You could see it, turning back toward the tower. Everybody at work started screaming.

I couldn't concentrate on my work. We watched the two towers falling. I couldn't help myself. I tried to hold back the tears, but I just broke down. I didn't know those people, but I couldn't help thinking about all those families. It's still kind of hard now.

At this point, as an American, I still don't feel that this is a secure country. They haven't shown that they can secure us against that penetration.

Castanon: We have neighbors who are Muslim and didn't know how to react at first. It was kind of scary. You start generalizing everybody. But they came out for the candlelight vigil, and everyone felt more at ease.

Ortiz: I can't look at them and hate them for what happened. They didn't do it. Come on. They left their country to get away from that violence that's going on.

You watch TV and it's an everyday thing - it's a constant reminder. But when they continually talk about that day - that day's past. It's a year old now, so let's stop talking about that. Let's talk about the days after.

Castanon: I don't want to hear this recording of how it sounded. The way we are in our society, we try to rush everything. We try to rush the mourning process. We try to rush the healing process. We still have this open wound.

Elizabeth Browne, 20

She has lived on Vashon Island all her life. She now runs the state licensing office, a half block off Vashon's main business street. Between customers, she sits outside on the wooden steps in front of the office, smoking cigarettes and talking to the occasional friend who drops by. She said she found out about the Sept. 11 attacks while she was on the ferry.

My mother called. She was hysterical. My first thought was, I was scared. It's probably the most scared I have been in my life. I remember looking up in the sky and looking for airplanes. I was literally scanning the sky, thinking, "Am I going to die?" I was just afraid of it all. Now I feel unaffected. There are days I totally forget what happened. I don't know if it's distance, or time, or if it's just that it's dropped out of the media, but it's not there like it was in my head.

You don't want to be racist at all, but you find yourself looking at people and wondering: "Are you a terrorist?" I was raised so well, but I remember having those feelings. I've never had feelings like that before. There's still that little back-of-my-head thing that says, "What if?" But that's fading away.

Now? I'm angry. The bottom line is, I feel like we're being lied to. That's a scary thought for a young, 20-year-old girl, to basically know that your government is lying to you. It just kind of yanks my chain. I get the feeling that they're just not informing us as well as they ought to. I have total distrust.

Ruthmarie Sandoval, 42

She lives in Gig Harbor and works as an assistant vice president at Columbia Bank in Tacoma. She moved here two years ago from California. On a recent Sunday, she held a garage sale. As she talked, she paused periodically to tell visitors that everything was priced at $2 or less. She has two daughters, ages 11 and 13.

I went running to the TV just in time to see the second plane. I thought that it had to be a mistake, that it couldn't happen.

I was so mad, that anyone thought they could have the - to just come and destroy lives, just to be so sneaky, so calculating. That's a heinous crime. That's evil.

I don't feel any fear. I'm a Christian, and I believe life has its time and its season. You can hide and not live. Life has its atrocities, as well as the good and the beautiful.

My children and I, we watched it that morning. We talked about what kind of mentality does this. It's just a bigger bully. I sent them to school. They wanted to stay home. I said, "No, business as usual." We took a vacation, flew out of the country. Live life. We'll not ever be bullied by anybody, ever. If I die, I die. But I'll never be a coward. Ever.

Richard Wells, 54

He is the tribal administrator of the Nisqually tribe. He grew up in Oakville, about 30 miles southwest of the reservation near Olympia. A brawny man with thick arms, he served as a military policeman during the Vietnam War, posted about 10 miles south of the demilitarized zone in North Vietnam. He is married, with four children of his own and five stepchildren.

Anger? Not with me. I noticed it in other people within a few days. There's really nothing to get angry about. Rather than react emotionally, you do what you can to try to resolve it. On Sept. 21, we called a community get-together in the gym, and conducted a healing ceremony with religious leaders - traditional, Quaker, Christian. I noticed that the anger and the sorrow and the fear reduced after that.

I think that people attacking the United States in that manner - to me, it's an irrational attack. It's the same thing that's happened with different wars for hundreds of years, starting with American Indians. They justified it by saying it was war. I don't know of any war that justifies killing innocent people. You go to war to fight the warriors.

I noticed the emotions among the people I know fairly well. Almost everyone felt helpless. It seems that most people now have less patience. Road rage - people are doing crazy things. I'd never seen human beings act as badly as some of the people I've seen in the last 10 months. You still see a lot of fear in people. We had reports of Native Americans throughout the Southwest mistakenly identified as Arabs, who were attacked. We do see an increase in bigotry.

Tanya Misyura, 16

She was raised in the little town of Tomakivka, Ukraine. She and her family emigrated to Washington state two months before Sept. 11. Misyura said she found out about the attacks when she went to her first class at Orting High School that Tuesday.

Everyone was listening to the radio. I asked a friend to translate. I think it was going to be like a war, and I am very afraid. All day in school we talked only about this. I went home, and my aunt was very frightened, too. She went to the store to buy food - a lot of potatoes - in case there was a war. But my mother said, "Don't be afraid." She told me to read Revelations - you know, the last chapter in the Bible. After that I became calm. I thought, "God was with us when we came to America, and he will help us now."

I don't want to think about it now. I want to live. This is the day I have, and I live it. Yesterday and tomorrow, I don't know.

Mike Clark, 41, and Jonathan Clark, 34

They're brothers, but they disagree on just about everything having to do with Sept. 11. They both work at Bob's Bar-B-Q Pit, their family's restaurant on Tacoma's Hilltop. After the lunch rush, they emerge from the kitchen, sweaty from the barbecue fire and eager to talk. Mike is angry and wants to go clean up on the Middle East. Jonathan thinks the attackers may have had a point.

Mike: Sept. 11 was the most tragic event of our lifetime. It should be made a national holiday. It hurt because it was a hit on America. I felt like it was an attack on us personally. But America stood together. We were strong. We're a little poorer for what happened but a little richer for coming together. As a nation, I think we're more united now.

The lesson was: There's still a lot of evil men in the world. After a year, I still think they should be hunted down like dogs and dealt with. They're cowards. If they were real men, they would fight like men. They attack people randomly. They say they have a cause, but what is it, other than to destroy? It was senseless and they're not going to win.

Jonathan: I don't think hunting anybody down is going to do anything. All that's going to do is make a martyr out of bin Laden. They see him as a hero. Sept. 11 raised questions in my mind about our country - about our policies. Everybody was so sad, but, at the same time, nobody wanted to look in the mirror. What would be the reason people would do something like this? They did have reasons: Our country does things to other countries that are not in their best interest.

Our country is a great country, but in order to achieve what we have achieved we have trampled on people. What we saw is a group of people who have exhausted all means. They don't have a chance. They say, "I'm thirsty," and there's no water; "I'm hungry," and there's no food. This is not life.

I'm not anti-American. But we always want to think of the other guy as the bad guy. Sometimes decisions are made that are not the best decisions. Compassion, that's what our government needs to learn.

Jamie Nelson, 25

She's selling cold drinks from a cart in the Vashon ferry line. She's lived on Vashon Island almost 20 years. She was shocked on Sept. 11, but the attacks no longer occupy much of her mind.

I've had things I've had to get on with and do. Being a Christian, I know they (the victims) are in heaven with God, so that makes me feel good. I don't worry about terrorism. I try to stay positive and stay focused on the good things in life. The president is doing everything he can to stop terrorism and, as a Christian, I know the Lord will protect me.

Jim Hayden, turns 78 today

He's a U.S. Navy vet who was rescued from the aircraft carrier Yorktown after the battle of Midway. He has lung cancer and speaks in a quiet, raspy voice. For the past 10 years, he has lived in the state veterans' home in Retsil, across from the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. He spoke from a bench in the courtyard.

This is slowly going into memory. People just go back to their old ways. They say, "Well, I've got to go to work today, I've got to be on time to go to lunch, or whatever." They don't forget about it; it's just something new comes up to occupy the mind.

Security precautions should be expanded in strategic places like the shipyard over there. We need to stop trouble before it starts. I think the government should have more people out, like snoopers. Tell them: "Now you go out and find out what's going on, see what people are saying," because one bad apple can ruin the whole bushel barrel."

Faith Bartholomew, 20

She grew up in Illinois, and now lives in Olympia, where she studies anthropology at The Evergreen State College. On a recent sunny day, she sat under a tree on the Evergreen campus, rolling her own cigarettes and talking. She cried on Sept. 11, not out of grief, but because she realized how much hate there is in the world.

I didn't feel any personal connection to anybody who died, so for me it wasn't so much grief or sympathy. The worst thing was just knowing that kind of hate existed. My philosophy on life is "Peace, love and happiness," and anything that goes against that hits me in a soft spot.

At first, I felt safer in a sense, knowing we were going to get them. When I became more educated, I started to have other feelings. Quoting my sociology teacher: "Capitalism is the devil." All the few in power care about is just themselves. People are being deceived to believe that they're helping the country as a whole when, really, if it's not going to improve their own interests, they don't want anything to do with it.

I definitely don't support the terrorists. And I don't think any problems should be carried out by violent means. But if all American citizens realized what we're doing to ourselves and other countries, they would stand up and unite for the betterment of the people as a whole. If people were to see these things and try to educate themselves, it would be great. But I don't think people do that. Instead, they watch TV, which is controlled by big corporations. People aren't going to hear what we've done wrong on TV.

Summer Phillips, 25

She is a mother of three who lives between Roy and McKenna. She's learning the ropes of her father's backyard auto repair business, advertised with a sign that says "God Bless the USA." She speaks swiftly, holding her youngest child on one arm.

I'm not an avid news person. The TV happened to be on. It said there was a plane crash in New York. I went, "Oh, another plane crash, no big deal." Then my uncle called. He said it really is a big deal.

I was angry at the ignorance - in which the terrorists tried to display their hatred toward Christianity. I felt afraid for my children - are we going to be at war? I had conspiracy theories. Is it going to be worse? Even though nothing severe has happened since, I feel like there's a cat in the corner, waiting to pounce. It's definitely not over.

So many people have come in and they want what we have. Then they want to take "One nation under God" out of our schools. Well, we are under God. If I were to go over to Jerusalem and say, "You shouldn't praise Allah any more," I'd be stoned and killed. Everybody else is trying to change what we stand for. Everybody wants to be free, but at what point do we say, "OK, that's enough. This is what freedom is."

Paul Reinstein, 47

He's the manager of Highland Hill Music Center on Tacoma's Sixth Avenue. He lives in Lakewood. He talks at closing time, surrounded by guitars, pieces of musical instruments, finger boards, disassembled guitar bodies. The terrorist attacks seemed unreal and far away, until he noticed his 14-year-old daughter was drawing pictures of the New York skyline.

This gives us a chance to learn how we're viewed by the rest of the people on this earth. A lot happens - actions by the United States in other countries - that may not be fair. We're kind of oblivious to that. The whole bottom line is that you have to have someone with an enormous amount of hatred to do something like this. There has to be some underlying reasons - distrust or fear or something that provokes someone to that extreme. I don't justify it. But if you're suppressed or mistreated, in some cases there may be no other way to express it.

I don't look at immigrants or Middle Easterners any different than I ever did. That was one of the things that worried me most - persecution of these people. They had nothing to do with it. That was the thing that disgusted me most - people going into mosques, beating people up. It gave them an excuse. That crowd mentality, that whole mass hysteria, is something I always worry about.

I don't think Sept. 11 changed my life. I just think that maybe it brought to the front or emphasized what I've always felt all along: This whole world needs to become more of a family. I'm not somebody who says, "Let's all hold hands around the earth," but everybody should have the opportunity to live their lives as they see fit. There needs to be tolerance and understanding.

Mike Pickett, 63

He lives in Gig Harbor. For the last 21 years, he has owned PAVCO, an aviation company he runs with his wife and son at the Tacoma Narrows Airport. The services include a flight school, aircraft sales and charter flights. Banners of red, white and blue adorn the service counter and the windows. He retired from the U.S. Air Force as a major, and flew AC-47s in Vietnam. He still stands with a military posture and shakes hands with a firm grip.

Immediately, everything was grounded. They just stopped all flying. We were out of business for a long time. The instructors had a heck of a time. The insurance went on. The city collected the rent, and the excise tax went on. The expenses went on.

When they did start opening up flying, it came in pieces. It affected us severely. It took what was going to be a banner year for us and took about four months out of it.

We got all of our records looked at by the FBI, which was fine with me. We had good records of all of our students. We usually have 60 to 80 students at any time. All kinds of ethnicities. If you look at our operation, nobody gets in an airplane unless we hand them the keys. We don't hand them the keys unless we go through all their records, including their medicals.

I'm all for what the government's doing. I fly a flag, too, but I did it before. I think this might have shaped up some attitudes about loyalty, nationalism, whatever you want to call it. Our institutions and our freedoms were working against that. How long before we're comfortable and complacent again, who knows? Probably not for a while yet.

"A lot happens - actions by the United States in other countries - that may not be fair. We're kind of oblivious to that."

Paul Reinstein

manager, Highland Hill Music Center, Tacoma

"I definitely don't support the terrorists. ... But if all American citizens realized what we're doing to ourselves and other countries, they would stand up and unite for the betterment of the people as a whole."

Faith Bartholomew The Evergreen State College