New York Times, National
Grief Knits Together a Country
September 12, 2002
By DEAN E. MURPHY
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
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
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.
"No," a tall girl in a blue jumper
said. "It was the people who died that day. They were
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
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