Thursday, September 11, 2003

9/11 Redux

Hm. 9/11 again.
I was in our local paper (again) this time with a photo, although they don't have photos of people in the online version. Here it is:
Posted on Thu, Sep. 11, 2003
September 11, 2001
Two years after terrorists punctured America's sense of security, Soledad firefighter Elda McClaskey keeps her family closer.
Mary Sotelo, a teacher from Salinas, says her prayers more religiously.
Christine *****, a chiropractic assistant from Marina, doesn't let the little things get her down.
For them and many people across America, the horrors of Sept. 11, 2001, are not so raw on this second anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. But they still are with us, shaping in some ways our day-to-day lives -- emotionally, spiritually, politically, financially -- or in some other fashion.
To take a measure of how the Sept. 11 attacks have changed us personally, Herald staff members fanned out across Monterey County on Wednesday, starting at 5:46 a.m., the minute, Pacific time, the first plane hit the north tower of the World Trade Center two years ago. To people up and down the Salinas Valley and along the Monterey Peninsula we posed this question: What has been the biggest impact of Sept. 11 on your life?
Here's what we heard:
Combating stress
The stress from Sept. 11 surrounds Steve Young, chaplain at the Presidio of Monterey.
"The soldiers sense the presence at all times," Young said.
Before the terrorist attacks, soldiers came in seeking career advice. Now they want to know how to manage the constant stress in their lives, Young said.
He reads up on current events to better help them manage their stress, their spirituality and their mission.
"We are in the business of bringing peace in methods of war," Young said.
Fallout fresh for firefighter
Jesse Casillas lives with reminders of Sept. 11 every day when he goes to work as acting chief of the Soledad Fire Department.
"We lost 343 brothers and sisters," Casillas said, referring to the firefighters who perished at the World Trade Center towers. "It can make a firefighter really realize how precious life is and how quickly it can end."
Did that make him rethink his career choice? Definitely not. Rather, it reinforced his passion for the job -- and expanded his responsibilities.
In addition to dealing with fires, hazardous materials, accidents and medical calls, firefighters have become even more versed in the world of terrorism and how to deal with its threats.
"It's not difficult at all to find (weapons of mass destruction) and terrorism consequences-management courses," he said.
Strengthening family ties
Elda McClaskey, acting captain of the Soledad Fire Department, has faced the same on-the-job changes as her boss, Jesse Casillas, since Sept. 11. She's also gone through some changes at home.
"It's brought me closer to my family," said McClaskey, who is getting together more often with her parents and brothers and her husband's family.
Before, she said, "There were times when your parents would say 'Do you want to come over for dinner?' and you were tired and didn't go. Now you go. You just never know."
There are now more weekends together, more frequent phone calls. On Tuesday, her younger brother called for career advice. He's thinking of becoming a firefighter, too.
Standing fast
While the events of Sept. 11 were changing the world at large, B. Obiajulu Aduba was adamant that they wouldn't change his world.
"I swore to myself that I would not cower down, that I would not change my lifestyle or make any accommodation to terrorism," said Aduba, a Nigerian immigrant who works as a financial manager from Salinas. "I did not buy and will not buy face masks or special clothing to protect me from anthrax or any of the chemicals that might be used by terrorists. I have not stocked up my freezer in case of war. I have never canceled any trips for fear that somebody might hijack my plane. I have actually flown more since 9/11 than before.
"I refuse to give in to fear. My defiant behavior is not based just on the fact that we have the best-trained and led forces in the world, but also because I know that my help comes from the great ruler who made heaven and earth. My ruler will keep watch over me and would not slumber.
"I am not fazed by yellow or red alerts. I just ignore them. The only change in my routine is going to the airport earlier than I used to do. I patiently go through the checkpoints and faithfully comply with all the demands of airport authority. My relationship with Christians, Jews and Moslems did not change and will not."
Artistic expression
In the spring of 2001, six months after the attacks, Carmel Valley artist and CSU-Monterey Bay student Karen Welch poured her feelings into a large watercolor.
She painted a naked woman resting on bare earth and bleeding profusely from her breasts and genitals. The woman is covered by a blanket of stars that seem to wash her wounds with light. Her serene expression suggests faith that one day violence will give way to brightness.
"The crescent moon in Muslim society symbolizes power," Welch explained. "The stars in the sky are based on an Arabic design. The woman represents earth where people are bleeding. It's my response to the general atmosphere of the world right now, which, in my view, seems to be a lot more violent and insecure."
The painting also reflects Welch's belief that the circumstances and policies fueling violence can be corrected. When the World Trade Center was hit, Welch wasn't shocked. Considering "our capitalistic and imperialistic ways, I wasn't surprised that someone (attacked) us because of our foreign policy. If everyone in the world was free and had enough to eat, then I don't think we would be bombing each other. There is a grave imbalance of power in the world, and others are trying to balance themselves out in a terrible and very radical way."
Reject stereotyping
The swell of violence and disdain aimed at Middle Eastern immigrants in the wake of 9/11 forced Mark Gallegos, 31, of Gonzales, to take note of the dangers of stereotyping people from a particular culture.
"We have to be more aware that if you start stereotyping people, it's not good for anybody," said the co-owner of Raices Chicano art and book store in Northridge Mall in Salinas. "Once we start stereotyping, the hatred can overtake us."
He has become more aware of anti-immigrant issues as a result. He said he is supportive of civil liberties groups fighting for the rights of undocumented immigrants, and is opposed to certain aspects of the Patriot Act that single out those who come to this country illegally. In his opinion, the aftermath of Sept. 11 shouldn't result in a culture of fear that shuns undocumented immigrants of any culture.
"We need to look forward, we need to look ahead at the future," he said. "What happened happened. We just need to be more careful now."
Freedom is sacred
Gary Loss, a Prunedale barber at the Prunetree Shopping Center, said he is not ashamed to say that tears came to his eyes two years ago while watching the World Trade Center collapse on television.
The feelings linger.
"It makes me realize that freedom is a lot more sacred, that maybe we took that for granted for too long," said Loss, 55. "I know I've become a little more cautious about people. It woke up the world that there are vicious people out there."
Nevertheless, he said he is not concerned about security issues.
"I don't worry about getting on an airplane," Loss said. "I still believe that the system works."
New approach
Loss' fellow barber, Carlos Olivas of Salinas, said the events of Sept. 11 definitely changed the way he approaches his life.
"We can't take things for granted," he said. "I do appreciate life more. I'm glad I wasn't in New York when it happened."
Challenges for parents
Sept. 11 tested the parenting skills of Patrick Bassetti, a Greenfield farmer. His two boys, 9 and 10 at the time, were filled with questions and fears. Those have subsided, but he knows the memories are lasting.
"I think it really scared my kids actually to see something like that happen," Bassetti said. "You don't really think about how to explain to your kids what's going on inside your own country. Most of these things happen outside our country.
"It's kind of like being around during Pearl Harbor," he said. "I always wondered how that would have felt."
Now he has a better idea.
Terror hits close to home
His family and friends are frontline soldiers in the war on terror.
"I've become more family-oriented," said Robert Ashmore, a Monterey native who's owned a small gunsmithing business in Monterey for 31 years.
"I think a lot more about my son-in-law who's a Marine and who's going to be shipping out to the Middle East in January, maybe sooner," said Ashmore.
The war in Iraq came close to home, he said, with the death of Navy Lt. Kylan Jones-Huffman, a family friend, who was killed in Iraq Aug. 21. He was shot to death as he sat at the wheel of his car in stalled traffic on the streets of Al-Hillah, 45 miles south of Baghdad.
"Terrorism became a very serious issue for me after that," Ashmore said.
Security is commonplace
"It was very scary to see this thing happen. It hit all of us, like Pearl Harbor," said Alfie Khalil of Monterey, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 1263 at the Presidio of Monterey.
A native of Egypt and now a U.S. citizen, Khalil taught Arabic at the Defense Language Institute from 1979 until becoming union president in 1987.
"It's been printed in my mind and conscience," he said, "the most unbelievable act. I hate terrorism much more now than ever before. I also feel helpless, that I cannot do something about it."
He and others who work at the Presidio have learned to live with and accept stringent security arrangements: guarded gates, armed sentries, electronic identification cards.
Last year, Khalil said, he was changing planes in Dallas on a flight from Washington, D.C., to San Francisco, when he was pulled out of the line.
"They searched my shoulder bag, asked me where I was going, where I work. I explained, and two security officers took me from the terminal to the plane. I recall getting upset a little bit; I was the only one of 70 or 80 people being questioned."
Thinking globally
Robert Beutler, a substitute teacher from Monterey, finds himself looking outward rather than inward these days.
"I've changed my mind on priorities," Beutler said. "I used to look toward myself. Now I take more of a national, international view of community.
"Especially here on the Central Coast, we tend to get caught up in our little community. I watch the news more and pay more attention."
Reserving judgment
CSUMB sophomore Roxy Diaz said today's anniversary reminds her to stay true to her personal commitment to not be so critical of others.
"I appreciate things more and try not to be so judgmental," said Diaz, 19.
There were a lot of ugly things that passed in the days after Sept. 11 and it opened her eyes to what can happen when people make assumptions based on ignorance, she said.
"You never know if you are making a comment that will offend someone," Diaz said.
Hope for the future
For Maria Anderson, a Salinas mother of three, Sept. 11 had a tangible immediate impact and a less tangible but always-there long-term impact. She canceled a planned trip to Hawaii right after the attack. Now, she said, the events of that day are "always in the back of my mind."
"I think of it all the time and how it will affect my kids' future," she said after dropping her children off at Toro Park School.
Could anything positive come of that terrible day? "Well, it could be a step toward peace," she said. "Maybe this is the one thing that had to happen for things to go in the right direction."
First things first
Like many Americans, Marietta Nelson found herself rethinking her priorities two years ago.
"After Sept. 11, I guess I just really realized the value of my family, and how it's important to cherish them and then do something important to me, to seize the moment," Nelson said. "That's when I decided to go to work full time, not to let opportunities pass me by, not to put things off, and to value people over things. To remember that being kind to other people, being gracious, being forgiving, is more important than everything."
Nelson recently moved to the Peninsula from Washington with her husband, a career naval officer who is attending the Naval Postgraduate School. Though she is a military wife, she said she has not supported one of the nation's responses to Sept. 11, the war in Iraq.
"I was against the war," she said. "A lot of people in the military were against the war. I don't think it was about Sept. 11. It was about old grudges."
Frequent flying
For Alison Rooker, human resources director at La Playa Hotel in Carmel, the impact of Sept. 11 can be measured in miles.
"I moved back to the Peninsula in May 2001 to be closer to my aging mother," she explained. "At that time, the 1,800 miles it would place between me and my two teenage girls living with their father in Kansas City didn't seem to be much of a factor. After all, the airlines would shuttle us back and forth safely whenever we chose. And, fares were competitive enough to make weekend trips a snap.
"After Sept. 11, I initially wondered, 'When will I see my children again?' and soon thereafter, 'How often would I see them?'" she said. "My hesitation to have them fly alone over the holidays increased as I scrambled to schedule time away from work to spend Thanksgiving and then Christmas with them in K.C. that same year. Before Sept. 11, the plan was for them to fly unaccompanied and spend the holidays in Carmel."
Even with her concerns, Rooker and her two daughters have gotten more or less used to airline travel post-Sept. 11, a sign, for them at least, that things have returned to "normal."
"Over the past two years, my anxiousness relating to their travel plans has subsided," she said. "The schedule has become somewhat routine, but trips aren't as often as I'd once planned. And, while I think the naiveté I had regarding national security has been disrupted, neither my children nor I have any fear of flying."
Security tightens
Security clearly is tighter on the waterfront these days, said Ron Pratt, a fisherman aboard the Diana, the oldest working "drag boat" in Monterey. The Coast Guard is more visible and boarding more boats, he said.
Pratt said he remains shocked by the Sept. 11 attacks.
"Why would anyone want to mess with us?" he wondered. "We have the ability to do a lot of damage with our military."
Watching our wallets
For Tino Meraz, Sept. 11 has taken a financial toll. Since the attacks, business has been off by about 15 percent at El Camino Liquors, the market on the end of Greenfield's main street that he and his wife have owned for 10 years.
Meraz speculated that initially things were down because shipments from Greenfield's agricultural fields to the East Coast were disrupted, meaning there was less money in the local economy. But even after that business returned to normal, people were still tighter with their wallets.
"Probably, people are more cautious about how they spend their money," Meraz said. It hasn't caused a hardship at home, he said. "We're cautious on how we spend out money (too). We don't throw our money around. We don't live high on the hog."
Counting blessings
LiBera Cleek stopped at the Giant Artichoke in Castroville on Wednesday to buy flowers she said she would leave on the graves of old friends from Moss Landing.
Cleek, of Paramount, said she makes the occasional trip to Monterey County as a sort of tradition -- she and her husband used to travel together often before he died five years ago.
"My husband and I used to come up here and spend a day or two with our friends," she said. "I miss him."
Cleek said she's glad her husband wasn't alive to witness the attacks on the World Trade Center.
"It was devastating, just devastating," she said. "He was an emotional person like me. It would have broken his heart."
Despite the heartbreak it caused her, Cleek said, Sept. 11 has caused her to be thankful for family. She now lives and travels with her son.
"It makes you know how blessed you are. It made me more thankful," she said. "Now, we all live close by."
Fears linger
At Lovers Point, Rene Velasco, a San Jose real estate agent, stretched on his wet suit as he prepared to go on a morning scuba dive. As a real estate agent, he's noticed that since Sept. 11, 2001, people have considered security more when deciding where they live. He attributes that change to fear.
"I saw a lot of people moving out of the Santa Clara Valley," he said, because they believe its status as the center of the high-tech world makes it a terrorist target. "They felt they would be safer in the Central Valley."
Velasco said the attacks also have made people more wary of travel.
Some of his friends and family have canceled trips abroad, he said.
More to come
Bob Kelley, a retired Sacramento police lieutenant who now lives in Pacific Grove, thinks things have changed since Sept. 11, but the biggest effects are yet to come.
"With the commitments that this country is making in the Middle East, our obligations are going to tap resources to the extent that they change lives," he said. "Little things are beginning to appear now, with increased security and the spread of databases. But we're just beginning to be ushered into the financial effects."
When the planes hit the twin towers, Kelley was out of town for his granddaughter's birth, which happened the day before.
"We were just in a sense of relief" because the baby was healthy, he said. "Then I remember hearing the announcer on the radio say that the first plane hit, that it was an accident. Then I turned on the TV. It was apparent that life as we know it would be changed."
Trip revives memories
Aromas resident Vickie Morris' impressions of Sept. 11 are uppermost in her mind these days. She and her family recently returned from a visit to New York City and Ground Zero.
"It's humbling, that we could be so vulnerable," said Morris, recalling the site where the World Trade Center stood prior to Sept. 11, 2001. "It's absolutely not there... it struck me especially what a massive site it is."
Ground Zero, although cleared off and being readied for reconstruction, is still a grim reminder of that day. However, Morris said she doesn't feel overly affected in her daily life. "We're kind of removed, out here," she said of her rural home in north Monterey County.
But, she said, Sept. 11 was "an eye-opener" in terms of how the rest of the world views America. "Before, it was always something that happened somewhere else."
She did note, however, that people in the Big Apple seem to be altered by the event.
"The whole city has changed its demeanor," said Morris, judging against previous visits she'd made to New York. "People were much more friendly and helpful."
Wake-up call
Linda Schlegel has felt a loss of freedoms on multiple levels.
"I don't feel safe and comfortable traveling throughout the world; it just feels restricted," said Schlegel, a Carmel Valley resident who works as an admissions director at a private school. "The world will never be the same.
"Personal freedoms of individuals, especially their privacy, has been affected," she continued. "There's a lot of government keeping tabs on what we do and where we go and what we look at that is just so invasive.
"In the aftermath of 9/11, I felt out of touch -- distant from politics -- on the outside looking in because politicians gave themselves more power to react quickly and make immediate decisions on the politics of the world. I didn't get a say in whether or not we fight in Iraq. It took my voice away and turned me off politics. But then I realized things are happening so fast now that it's an indicator we have to pay more attention to those in power. It has renewed my interest in California Peace Action and I feel empowered to be more pro-active in politics. I guess it woke me up."
Fear and loving
Sept. 11 raised Christine ***** awareness of the importance of family, the world around her and her political consciousness.Family has become a higher priority," said the chiropractic assistant from Marina. "Day-to-day things are less important. Things that used to be upsetting I try not to let get to me. Money and cars are not the focal point anymore. Family unity is more important. To make family more important, we have more family dinners and walks together. The people you love may not be around tomorrow." She and her husband also have become more attuned to politics. "We've become more aware of local politics so that we know what is going on and how it affects our world," she said. "You can't complain if you don't want to take action for change. Get out and vote."
Praying for peace
Mary Sotelo, a Salinas resident who teaches in Soledad, finds a place in her prayers for Sept. 11 and its aftermath.
"It has had a more spiritual impact," said Sotelo. "Because of it I pray more for world peace. Being Catholic I say my Rosary and morning and evening prayers daily. I have always hated to fly, but in the back of my mind, even when I see a plane overhead, I think of the tragedy of 9/11 and pray for those in the air to have a safe flight."
Immigration complications
Frank Berry is British, but he splits his time between England and Del Rey Oaks. He is becoming a a U.S. citizen -- and Sept. 11 changed everything for would-be immigrants.
The process is "a lot slower," Berry said. "They told us between six and nine months and it's been two years."
Sometimes he feels the increased scrutiny in a more immediate way.
"When we started coming after Sept. 11, getting through customs took two hours, which after an 11-hour flight was an absolute joke," he said. "It really gets you at the airport, but it's good. Safetywise I've got no problem."
Getting on with life
Samuel and Anita Tarber of Fontana, in Southern California, had been visiting Carmel since Monday -- traveling there by car. Samuel Tarber, a truck driver for Toys 'R Us, hasn't flown since Sept. 11.
"I will again someday," he said. "Just not right away."
When your number's up, your number's up, he said, "but I'm not gonna help that number along."
Anita Tarber, a nurse, disagreed. "I'm just the opposite," she said. "It doesn't bother me."
They both paid more attention to the news after the terrorist attacks, but after a while, they said, there's only so much you can do. "I felt bad for the families," Samuel Tarber said, "but you've got to go on with life."
No longer untouchable
Twenty-one-year-old Tony Neadeau believes his generation had a sense the U.S. was untouchable -- until the attacks. Now he's become more interested in foreign affairs and looks for news stories about the Middle East. One concern he has about the future: lingering tensions and anti-American sentiment will hinder foreign business dealings, limiting the job market when he graduates with a degree in business.
Rat race refugee
Tia Williams made major life changes after 9/11, quitting her management job in Georgia and moving to Marina, where she works part time as a cashier at a fast-food restaurant.
"It's made me aware of the importance of life," she said. "It made me appreciate life and live life to the fullest."
Williams now spends more time with her son and visits the beach every day.
"I'm very comfortable now; before I was really high-strung. Now I work for a few hours a week and I can breathe," she said.
No easy explanations
Arlette Rush, of Marina, home schools her three children and this week she struggled with the subject of Sept. 11.
"I think the biggest impact was trying to explain it to my children, shield them from it and trying to make sense of the whole thing," Rush said.
Her children watched some terror-attack footage replayed on the Discovery Channel this week during their home school social science class.
"It still had an emotional impact two years later."
"I can't even explain it to them. I can't even understand it myself," she said.
Flying days over
Cuauhtenoz Perez is so concerned about the prospect of another terrorist attack on U.S. soil that he drove to the Peninsula from Arizona instead of flying -- with two toddlers in tow. Since Sept. 11, the family, including Jennifer, 2, and Rolando, 3, avoid airplanes and crowded places, fearful of another strike.
This article was reported and written by Clarissa Aljentera, Marc Cabrera, Royal Calkins, Vern Fisher, James Herrera, Kevin Howe, Dan Laidman, Joe Livernois, Victoria Manley, Mac McDonald, Brenda Moore, Orville Myers, Kathy Nichols, Sukhjit Purewal, Liz Roberts, Jon Segal, Courtney Semple, Laurel Shackelford and Brandy Underwood.
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