Baha'i News -- S. Arizona's somber look back

S. Arizona's somber look back

Source: Arizona Daily Star
Publication date: 2002-09-12
Arrival time: 2002-09-14

America Resilient

Children join hands in a moment of silence. Followers of various faiths unite in prayer under a single roof. A school crossing guard displays a simple symbol of love.

All are among the scenes staged across Tucson Wednesday as the city marked the first anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001.

"I've been an American all my life," says Mona Arteno, 64, of Tucson. "This past year meant to me that America is strong and that we are united and we will stay that way."

Arteno expresses her patriotism at Tucson's official Downtown commemoration. She holds her hand over her heart atop a flag shirt as a color guard marches by.

Her feelings are echoed by others in the area. Here's a look at how Southern Arizona observed the anniversary of last year's terrorist attacks:

6 a.m. - Just after dawn, hundreds of uniformed-service members begin a solemn march toward the parade field of Southern Arizona's largest military installation.

They come from various sectors of the U.S. armed forces and form honor guards as the American flag is hoisted, and then put at half- staff at Fort Huachuca near Sierra Vista.

Standing in salute is Airman 1st Class Ace Tapang, 19, who joined the Air Force in response to the terrorist attacks. Tapang, whose father is in the Navy, enlisted while living in Japan late last year and is now training to be a Morse code operator.

"As soon as I saw it, it really affected me," Tapang says of the World Trade Center attacks, which he watched on television from across the globe. "It made me realize how much the people in the military are needed."

For military spouse Lori Flynn, 43, it is a time to think of others like her, who have waited and worried while loved ones fight the war on terrorism. Her husband, Col. Mike Flynn, commander of the 111th Military Intelligence Brigade at Fort Huachuca, was deployed to Afghanistan for three months in the spring.

"I'm more aware that what my husband does is very important. I'm proud of him and of everyone in the military."

7:40 a.m. - Crossing guard Edirt Estrada starts working at the northwest corner of East 22nd Street and South Treat Avenue, carrying a small flag and two roses in addition to his stop sign. The roses, he says, symbolize love. For nearly two hours, motorists honk, wave and cheer the 73-year-old grandfather from Peru. Life is precious, he explains: "Live every day happy."

8 a.m. - Salvation Army Capt. Tammy Ray has many reasons to grieve. Instead, she sends a message of hope.

Ray, 36, of Sierra Vista, spent 10 days at Ground Zero last September rendering aid in the aftermath of the World Trade Center attack. As the anniversary date neared, wrenching memories came rushing back.

"I'm seeing faces of the people I met, of the people who saw what happened," says Ray, an ordained minister.

She remembers consoling someone who had just witnessed the death of the Rev. Mychal Judge, a much-loved chaplain of the New York City Fire Department. Another face belonged to an office worker who had gone out to fetch coffee just before the planes hit. She ended up being the only one in her office who wasn't killed, Ray says.

When Ray gets to her office Wednesday, she decides to craft a makeshift tribute to resilience. Using marker pens and poster board, she draws two large signs and hangs them outside the Salvation Army worship center. "September 12 is coming!!" one sign says. The other says, simply: HOPE.

"This is a sad day, but tomorrow is going to be better," Ray explains.

8:30 a.m. - The city of Tucson begins its official commemoration with a short parade of public safety vehicles through Downtown streets, led by motorcycle police and a fife and drum corps with a bagpiper each from the police and fire departments.

Debbie and Dennis Ammons, like many Downtown business owners, delay opening to watch the parade. They wear matching flag-bedecked sweat pants, and each holds a corner of a large American flag. They pass out flag posters they had printed at their shop, Insty-Prints in La Placita Village.

Her brother Dan is a paramedic with the Florence Fire Department, and her mother is a New Yorker, Debbie Ammons says. "This is a day to remember all our heroes."

Anne Marie and Bobby Stanton bring their 2-year-old son, Robby. They've been trying to teach him about what happened, Anne Marie says, by taking him to local fire and police stations and saving newspapers, magazines and 12 videotapes about the tragedy so they might explain it to him later.

Right now, he doesn't get it. "We're here for the commemoration," she says, "and he thinks it's a party."

8:30 a.m. - About 200 youngsters and their teachers form a circle outside Borton Primary Magnet Elementary School, 700 E. 22nd St.

The children - from preschool to second grade - pledge allegiance to the flag, sing patriotic songs and observe a moment of silence before a desert willow is planted in memorial.

Osiris Valencia, 5, watches quietly with his mother, Siris Valencia. Both wear white T-shirts with the American flag printed on front. The kindergartner's memory of events one year ago is vivid - "Airplanes hit the towers and the people," he says in a whisper.

"He had a lot of questions - 'Why are there a lot of mean people who would do that?' " his mother says. First-grader Aidan Barnes watches his father, Pima County Sheriff's Deputy Keith Barnes, one of three men in uniform who take a turn shoveling dirt. "Because of the 9/11. There was a terrorist attack," Aidan explains.

9:11 a.m. - Tucson International Airport has fewer travelers than usual. But they're greeted by messages and banners posted by airport employees on the ticketing level. "It's only right we should fly today," one message says. "The human spirit was never meant to cast its shadow only on the ground," reads another.

9:11 a.m. - At the end of Tucson's parade, after the color guards file into El Presidio Park, Mayor Bob Walkup asks for a moment of silence that is broken only by the distant cry of a train and the hushing of restive toddlers.

The pledge is recited, the national anthem sung, a bell is struck three times - the firefighter's code for the end of danger. The crowd of about 1,000 collectively flinches at the start of a 21-gun salute.

Mona Arteno attends with her daughter, Shari Johnson, and Arteno's grandsons, Jeremy Johnson and Jory Hamre, both 15, who had taken the day off from Cholla High School, with mom's blessing.

Asked why he came, Jeremy replies: "I'm proud to be an American."

Jory has one scary moment as he stands facing the 10-story City Hall. "Uh-oh," he says as three jets fly over, remembering that image seared into everyone's mind a year ago.

Chaplain Jim Stout of the U.S. Border Patrol prays that such images stay with us. "Leave us the scar of remembrance," he says in his closing benediction, "lest we ever forget the sacrifices that were made." Stout also finds a lesson in the tragedy: "Let history record that Sept. 11, 2001, was the day that evil failed."

Walkup touches on the same theme in his brief remarks, invoking a comparison to the remembrance of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. "Our country came together then, and it comes together now," he says. Walkup's wife, Beth, says afterward that this year has been tough for Tucson, for the country and for her personally, battling breast cancer. "I'm thankful for life," she says.

10 a.m. - About 200 people representing more than 10 faiths join hands and sing a hymn for peace in St. Augustine Cathedral, 192 S. Stone Ave.

Although the hourlong service is in a Catholic Church, it includes Sikh chanting, a song performed by a member of Trinity Baptist Church and readings and talks from the Buddhist, Jewish and Muslim communities, among others.

"We come together in our longing and desire for peace,'' says Gerald F. Kicanas, coadjutor bishop for the Catholic Diocese of Tucson. "We know we stand together with people around our country and all around the world.''

Omar Shahin, imam of the Islamic Center of Tucson, 901 E. First St., speaks about the men who committed the acts last September, and about the "broken hearts" they left behind.

"I don't know what kinds of hearts you have. History will not forgive you for what you have done,'' he says, speaking directly to terrorists. "Sept. 11 was a horrific day for all of us.''

Bill Barnes of the local Baha'i community says a prayer that calls for "light to our eyes, hearing to our ears and understanding to our hearts."

And Roshan B. Bhappu of the local Zoroastrian community offers a simple prayer: "Good thoughts, good words, good deeds."

11:15 a.m. - Outside St. Augustine, Tzadik Shmuel and Marc Paley, both 24, sell T-shirts for $15 with one word on them, "Coexist." The T-shirts include symbols of faiths from around the world. The young men are part of a group called the Interfaith Peace Initiative, which formed earlier this year. "The stake we have in waging peace is so great,'' Paley says.

Noon - More than 2,000 people gather on the University of Arizona Mall just east of Old Main for a campus commemoration. The bell of the USS Arizona sounds five times to honor the five UA alumni known killed in the terrorist attacks - Gary E. Bird, Jeffrey W. Coombs, Frederick J. Cox, Karol A. Keasler, Christopher R. Larrabee. Then silence.

The bell is rung by 99-year-old alumnus Bill Bowers, who salvaged it from a shipyard in 1944. Workers finishing the new Memorial Student Union pause on scaffoldings to watch.

UA President Peter Likins faces the crowd - mostly young students - as he did a year ago, urging tolerance. Today, each person will explore his or her own thoughts and feelings, he says. "Our hearts and our minds take us in different directions in America, and that's OK. That was true a year ago, and that's still true today."

1 p.m. - It sounds like an air raid, but it isn't. The skies over Southern Arizona are abuzz throughout the day as the military begins staging commemorative fly-bys.

F-16 jets from the Arizona Air National Guard's 162nd fighter wing, based at Tucson International Airport, fly over Sahuarita and several other locations statewide. The Army National Guard dispatches helicopters throughout the day from its Silverbell Heliport at Pinal Air Park in Marana, starting with an 8:46 a.m. run over South Tucson to coincide with the time the first tower was hit in New York. In the evening, four A-10 attack jets from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base fly over Tucson Electric Park.

5:20 p.m. - With a red marker, 13-year-old Mary Parker prints "God Bless America!" on the Wall of Remembrance sponsored by Pima County at Tucson Electric Park.

"It's been really sad this past year," she says. "I just felt I had to come here and remember all the people who lost their lives."

8:30 p.m. - About 500 people at the Tucson Convention Center's Music Hall gave a standing ovation to Marie Noeth as she was presented with an American flag. The Tucson woman lost her grandson, Michael A. Noeth, last year in the attack on the Pentagon.

The city's memorial event was also marked by songs and prayers from various faiths.

8:30 p.m. - About 12,000 people took part in forming a giant 9/11 using glow sticks on the field of Tucson Electric Park. The crowd chanted "USA-USA" and sang "God Bless America."

Rudy Elenes, 23, a Wal-Mart employee, brought his two daughters, 2 and 3, to the patriotic celebration. "I'm an American, this is Tucson and everybody is together and doing our part to help," he said.

Retired couple June and George Slentz, both 79, said they attended the event "because it's the patriotic thing to do."

8:45 p.m. - A 15-minute fireworks show at TEP capped Tucson's day of remembrance. "It was very healing. The mutual support and coming together gives a sense of strength I didn't have before, and maybe hope for the future," said Cheryl McGill, who attended the event with her husband, Richard.

This report was compiled by Arizona Daily Star writers Carol Ann Alaimo, Tom Beal, Susanna Caizo, Stephanie Innes, Jeannine Relly, Inger Sandal and Eric Swedlund.

©Copyright 2002, Arizona Daily Star

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