Valley residents unite in wake of terrorist act

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SNOQUALMIE VALLEY - No one will forget last Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001.

As people were waking on the West Coast, four hijacked planes obliterated an icon in New York, tore a huge hole in the nation's defense headquarters in Washington, D.C., and crashed in the Pennsylvania countryside. It was the worst single day of violence against Americans since the Civil War.

Valley residents reacted the way many Americans did last week. Many wondered what they could do to help and what they could do to prepare for a new age where America's walls were not as high as they once thought.

An impromptu service at the Snoqualmie Valley Methodist Church in Snoqualmie last Wednesday brought about 30 people to sing, read Scripture, pray and reflect on what they had heard and thought for the past two days.

"It's a terrible tragedy," said the Rev. Earl Dean, a retired pastor who led the church for 11 years. "We don't want to be strangers but a community of people who care."

Dean was especially cautious of reactionary violence against Arabs and Muslims in America. He stressed that now is the time for compassion, and that the attacks last Tuesday were against Arabs and Muslims as well.

"We want justice, but we want it in a way that will hold onto the ideals of our country and onto the ideals of love and compassion that Christ taught," Dean said.

The reaction among area youth was one of shock and skepticism, according to 18-year-old Heather Maillet, who attended the service. With many in the press and government heralding the drumbeat of war, Maillet said those her age knew that any war they fought in would be much different than previous conflicts.

"There is the kind of 'deer in the headlights' feeling among the younger people," Maillet said. "We were hoping nothing like this would ever happen. We're hoping the government looks at other options."

The congregation itself was a little on edge because its own pastor, the Rev. Beryl Ingram, was stuck in Turkey and unable to return to America following the terrorist attacks. She was expected to arrive home by the end of last week.

A strong showing of public support occurred last week as people brought out their flags and canceled events in honor of those who had died and those who were fighting to save lives. Flags and ribbons started to appear everywhere, and America experienced a patriotic zest it is unaccustomed to on such a wide scale.

Cities throughout the Valley took time Friday to observe President Bush's call for a Day of Remembrance.

Snoqualmie city staff took a half hour off to attend a ceremony at the flag pole at Railroad Park. About 80 people showed up to take part in a moment of silence, pray and sing. Local historian Dave Battey led an impromptu singing of "God Bless America" at the flag pole, which flew at half-staff.

North Bend city staffers, likewise, closed their offices and joined citizens in taking turns signing a large piece of paper set out by firefighters in North Bend to send to New York City. About 100 people showed up to sign the paper and pray for the nation.

Work also stopped in Carnation so city employees could attend a service at the local fire station. Firefighters rang their bell in rememberance of those who died responding to the attack in New York, and drivers passing by honked their horns in support or stopped to attend the ceremony.

The gathering was small compared to later that night, when an estimated 200 to 250 people turned out for a candle-lighting and remembrance ceremony at the Tolt Commons Park in Carnation. Mayor Bob Patterson joined other speakers in honoring those who died in the attacks.

Citizens young and old were given a chance to speak and express their grief over last week's events.

"I was really proud to see so many people show up. It was packed," said Carnation Finance Administrator Richard Gould who attended the event. "There were a lot of tears."

In Fall City, local residents gathered Friday night at an impromptu candle-lighting vigil at Fall City Elementary. And a rock wall in Preston along the Preston-Fall City Road has become a makeshift memorial to those who died last week. The Impact youth soccer team raised more than $2,100 during a car wash Friday in North Bend, which was to be sent to the American Red Cross.

Like millions of others across the country, Jim and Jane Humphries are displaying a flag on their home in the Snoqualmie Ridge development. The flag once draped the coffin of Jane's father, Lester Van Wagner, who was a B-17 bomber instructor in the Army Air Corps during World War II.

"We have always been in love with our country," Jim said. "We have heard every adjective used to describe what has happened, and we felt we needed to respond this way."

Jane's brother is a captain in the Navy. Jim said he and his wife are keenly aware of the price paid for freedom in America.

"It's a freedom that is not always understood and is certainly underplayed," he said. "We need to support our country." The couple also sent an e-mail to their neighbors, urging them to display their own flags.

Although many of the thoughts and prayers expressed last week were for those who died and for their families, personal solace was sought as well.

"This is why we pray," said the Rev. Mary Karen Brown at the church service. "In a way it's for us because we need to be comforted."

Those who attended the church service wondered how they could explain this to their children, and many offered prayers for the children who may have lost parents in the attacks.

"There are some young mothers wondering how they could have brought a child into this world," one attendee said.

If there was anything good to happen as a result of the tragedy, many found it in the fact the entire nation rallied to comfort each other in a way many had never done before.

"It's definitely brought our congregation closer together," Maillet said.

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