New York Times, National

Grief Knits Together a Country

September 12, 2002



SACRAMENTO, Calif., Sept. 11 —The ceremony this morning on

the Capitol steps did not last long, this being a continent

away from the terror attacks. But it did not need to.


The point of the gathering here and that of countless

others around the country was not to belabor the agony. No

one wanted to detract from the remembrances in New York,

Washington and Pennsylvania.


The observances were meant to honor from afar, however

imperfectly, the memory of those who suffered that day.

Close to the events or not, many Americans felt unable to

separate themselves from those actions on this anniversary.


That meant the lighting of mourning candles at a small

synagogue in Johnson County in Kansas and the playing of

Mozart's Requiem before 10,000 people in Seattle. It meant

planting trees at a college in Fresno, Calif., and reciting

interfaith prayers at a Methodist church in Decatur, Ga. It

meant spur-of-the-moment get-togethers over coffee, lunch

or in front of television sets in cities across the



Today was not a day to be alone.


"I'm doing O.K.," said Wayne Nichols of Marstons Mills,

Mass., who was the companion of Barbara Jean Arestegui, a

flight attendant on American Airlines Flight 11, which

crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center.

"There is nothing like the context of sharing it with other



Here in Sacramento, the sharing was something very personal

for John Beaven. He spent a few tough minutes speaking on

the Capitol steps about his love for his father. Mr. Beaven

faced east toward the distant field in Pennsylvania where

his father, Alan Beaven, a lawyer from San Francisco, died

on United Airlines Flight 93.


"We are all capable of heroism, and my father was a true

hero," Mr. Beaven said. "I hope that the past year has made

my father proud."


Not being in New York, Washington or Pennsylvania meant

searching for a connection to the events of a year ago. For

some, like Mr. Beaven, it involved standing before a crowd.

For others, it was not deviating from a private routine and

hoping for the best despite a new terror alert.


"I'm going to work, where we are going to stop for a moment

of silence, and then it's back to business as usual," Ricci

Johns, a judicial aide who was commuting in Philadelphia,

said from the train platform where she stood last Sept. 11.

"Hopefully, today will be quiet and peaceful."


In Tampa, Fla., the remembrance amounted to splashy

demonstrations of patriotism. Thousands of people lined

Bayshore Boulevard and waved flags as four fighter jets

soared overhead. In Boston, the families of employees of

American Airlines attended a memorial at Logan Airport,

where the flights of two hijacked airliners began.


At Dulles International Airport near Washington, where

another hijacked plane departed from Gate D 26, scores of

pilots, flight attendants, ticket agents and other airline

workers recited prayers and poems.


In Fayetteville, N.C., fire officials raised an oversize

American flag more than 60 feet into the sky. Government

and military leaders praised the service of American

soldiers at a ceremony that was deep with emotion for

people stationed at nearby Fort Bragg.


In Philadelphia, police officers and firefighters joined a

somber procession to City Hall. The parade was a show of

solidarity for their fallen colleagues in New York, as well

as three of their own who died in 1991.


"I am overwhelmed," Paul Klein, a Fire Department

paramedic, said. "Days like this remind me of how difficult

the job is. And, of course, I am sad. Even if the attacks

didn't happen here, we are all brothers."

Big or small, private or public, the memories rippled

across America, bringing back the hurt of a year ago for

some people while also nurturing the hope and optimism that

were born after the attacks. If Americans have made it this

far without becoming undone, the thinking went, why expect

less now?


As the day progressed, that determination seemed to grow

stronger, as jitters about another possible terrorist

attack subsided, and some people even found themselves



In Portland, Ore., city officials linked the 9/11 ceremony

directly to a larger community celebration that was mainly

devoted to promoting volunteerism. The connection was


"Today," said Chad Coffelt, an organizer of the event, "is

about honoring those who lost their lives, but also the

incredible spirit and sense of community that come out of

the tragedies."


In schools and places of worship, there was a special

emphasis on tolerance. At 9:40 a.m. in Washington, pupils

at Ketcham Elementary School joined their teachers to mourn

the losses at the Pentagon and, in particular, the death of

James Debeuneure, a former fifth-grade teacher who died on

Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon. Ketcham pupils

had followed a districtwide curriculum for Sept. 11 that

emphasized cooperation among cultures.


Ten students also joined President Bush at the Pentagon to

recite the Pledge of Allegiance. When they returned to the

school, Superintendent Paul Vance asked for the highlights.

One spoke of the jets flying overhead.

Another disagreed.


"No," a tall girl in a blue jumper

said. "It was the people who died that day. They were

there, too."


Among the many interfaith religious gatherings was one

attended by Attorney General John Ashcroft at the

Washington National Cathedral. The service was punctuated

by warnings against vengeance.


Desmond Tutu, Anglican archbishop emeritus of South Africa,

delivered the central sermon. Archbishop Tutu said the

United States made the world "proud to be human" when it

witnessed the "extraordinary courage and selflessness

demonstrated at ground zero, the Pentagon and elsewhere,

even on the doomed flights."


But, he said, "The war against terrorism cannot be won

unless the war against poverty, against disease, against

ignorance is won - all those things that can make people



The service in Washington began with students carrying the

flags of 30 nations whose citizens died a year ago. Before

leaving for the Pentagon, Mr. Ashcroft began a daylong

ritual of reading the names of the dead. He started with

Gordon McCannel Aamoth and Mary Rose Abad and also recited

the name of Barbara Olson, wife of Solicitor General

Theodore B. Olson.


There were smaller religious gatherings too. About 80

people of different faiths in Muslim head scarves, suits

and sportswear and American-flag T-shirts and buttons

filled the pews of the North Decatur United Methodist

Church in Georgia. The Rev. Jody Alderman opened the

service, followed by Muslim, Jewish and Christian prayers

for the dead. Near the end of the service, congregants rang

hand bells to signify the many victims who died together.


All rose to sing, "This Is My Song," a hymn to

understanding among people in different nations.


"Our purpose is to show that we all have faith," Mr.

Alderman said after the service. "My feeling now is

different form my feeling last year. Last year, it was a

feeling of shock and horror and fear, just overwhelmedness.

Now there is still heartache, but there is hope."


There was also praying at Dulles International Airport in

Virginia, but the airport chaplain, the Rev. Curtis L.

Muldrow, said he had difficulty finding the right words.


"The challenge for me as a chaplain is trying to say

something that hasn't already been said," Mr. Muldrow

acknowledged a few minutes before the ceremony. "So much

has been said since that day."


In the end, he added, words can only do so much.


"There can never really be closure with a traumatic event like

this," he said. "It's something that people will have to

learn to live with."


The day was filled with events from early morning to late

evening. But some places made efforts to schedule

observances to coincide with the exact moments of the

attacks. In states like California, that became difficult

because of the three-hour time difference. Officials

planned double events.


San Francisco had a moment of silence at City Hall at 5:46

a.m., and Mayor Willie Brown ordered all traffic lights to

flash red or yellow at that moment. The ceremony in

Sacramento, was scheduled for 8:46 a.m. local time, in part

to ensure a good turnout, as well as to avoid conflicts

with East Coast programs.


Regardless of the timing, some people were uninterested in

the programs, choosing to spend the time with friends or

family members. A sign on the door to Mr. Beaven's law

office in San Francisco indicated that it would be closed

for the morning "in honor of our colleague."


Six people from the firm convened at a nearby garden of

potted trees and flowering rosemary on a skyscraper roof in

the financial district. They carried cups of coffee and a

white box filled with handmade pastries from a popular

bakery in Berkeley.


A woman at the gathering, Susan G. Kupfer, said the group

chose the spot because they sometimes shared brown-bag

lunches with Mr. Beaven there. The garden can be seen from

a window in the firm's office on California Street.


"We just wanted to remember him as we knew him, informally,

as a good colleague and friend," Ms. Kupfer said. "I can't

talk about it. It's too personal. Alan's death is a

profound loss."


Some people stole private moments in public places. A

handful of mourners, some fighting tears, visited Section

64 of Arlington National Cemetery, where three rows of

white headstones bear the date of Sept. 11, 2001. Many of

the military personnel killed in the Pentagon attack were

interred there, their gravestones facing the building where

they had worked.


People arrived in twos to lay flowers or notes, to touch

gravestones and to salute. The wind carried faint notes of

music from nearby ceremonies. One man stood silently,

stopping to bow his head and reflect at each grave. He

checked his watch.


At 9:37, the time Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon, he

and others turned, hand over heart, to face the building.


Early in the morning, on the other coast, thousands of

people gathered on a sandstone bluff overlooking Newport

Harbor and the beaches of Corona Del Mar, Calif., to

witness another private gathering. A flotilla of six tall

ships had anchored 100 yards or so offshore. One, the Lynx,

carried 18 members of families who lost relatives on Sept.



On shore, two hook-and-ladder trucks raised a large flag in

front of a crowd of people who included flight attendants

from United Airlines and American Airlines. At 8:46 a.m.

local time, the family members on the Lynx lowered three

wreaths into the water. With the falling of each wreath,

the ship's bell rang five times and was answered from shore

by an antique fire truck's bell.


"I did not turn on the TV, because I just knew I'd weep all

morning long," said Madeline Swindon, who was on the bluff.

"This was so different. So quiet, dignified and tranquil.

It was almost like being in church. I would like to think

we were with those families out there, giving them peace."


Of all the distant places where people sought to remember

the anniversary or to somehow feel closer to events they

have known only from the media, perhaps none provided a

deeper and more painful context than Oklahoma City. In the

minds of people there, there is an eternal link between the

attacks of Sept. 11 and the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah

Federal Building on April 19, 1995.


That might explain why people in Oklahoma City started

commemorating the anniversary early. On Tuesday night, they

lined the reflecting pool of the Oklahoma City National

Memorial with thousands of candles. This morning, fire

stations lowered flags, and fire engines flashed their

lights before the city observed a minute of silence.


Yet even with seven years' experience coping with their

pain, the anniversary today was difficult for some

survivors of the 1995 bombing.


One survivor, Betty Robins, participated in the candlelight

vigil, but by late afternoon had not left her house.


"Today," Ms. Robins said, "has been a little sadder than I