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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

THE BALTIMORE SUN

The Sun invited a variety of Marylanders to share their thoughts on the first anniversary of 9/11. Here are their responses.

Being on scene at Ground Zero changed a life

As a police officer, I was able to spend time in New York working at Ground Zero.

I tell people that to see the scene on television or in pictures doesn't compare to actually standing on the site. To see the destruction and realize you are standing in the middle of it was as indescribable then as it is one year later.

The emotion you felt was physically as well as emotionally draining. Yet when a stranger would walk up to you on the street after you had worked your shift and say, "Thanks for being here," it made the ordeal worth it.

The changes in my personal life and the changes in work are in some ways a complete 180-degree turn. At work, my job went from being an everyday police officer dealing with normal calls to being trained in antiterrorist tactics and in dealing with weapons of mass destruction.

Personally, I sometimes look at my family and say to myself, "I'm so thankful that I live in America." I am even more thankful after seeing the devastation up close and personal.

A year has passed and I can still remember standing in the middle of the rubble and looking at the devastation. The only thing I could compare it to is hearing my parents say that they remember where they were the day President Kennedy was killed. Or my grandparents say they knew where they were the day Pearl Harbor was bombed.

I will be able to say the same thing 20 years from now, and will be grateful I live in a land that allows me to do so.

Jack Hergenroeder

Baltimore

The writer is a sergeant in the Baltimore City Police Department.

Legacies of hope and individual value

Two legacies are on my mind.

First, although the rescue workers were not able to save large numbers of those trapped when the buildings burned and collapsed, their actions saved something that is essential to a nation's existence. By answering the call, going to the rescue, risking and giving their own lives in the line of duty, they preserved the nation's ability to hope.

Hope is based on promise, on oaths taken and kept. If the rescue workers had failed to come when the alarm sounded, our trust in each other as citizens would have been dealt a deathblow.

The same is true of each one of us who makes a promise: In honoring our oaths, even at great cost, we contribute to our nation's health and strength.

Second, in the rituals crafted to mourn the dead, mourners spontaneously strove to make their loved ones' faces known. Calculating the numbers missing and dead was not enough, even names were not enough. Those who came to memorialize loved ones held their beloved's pictures aloft for the world to see.

And in the aggregate, what a picture of America we saw. This public insistence on individuality gives us a chance to realize a new stage of our existence as a people.

In the tragedy of 2001, we learned that every person counts and each of us counts on every person. That "We the people" designates a body of irreplaceable persons.

May our conduct as a nation be worthy of these legacies.

Sister Mary Aquin O'Neill

Baltimore

The writer directs the Mount St. Agnes Theological Center for Women.

Cracking open our isolation

What's in any anniversary? What goes around comes around, but we in America used to feel that this adage mostly applied to others, not ourselves.

We've led the First World in progress, always building and climbing higher; before too long we'll touch the sky. We follow the path of time like an arrow, not a circle, and have believed we could and ought to always move on.

Unlike whatever them isn't us, we have for most of a century lost touch with the cycles of eternal return -- their fatalism and their promise of wholeness.

So today is no different from any other -- just one more step on the stairway to whatever heaven we imagine as our goal.

Today, like the day before yesterday and the day after tomorrow, we have the same choice: whether to learn to live unhoused from our towering isolation, or try to build it up again and crawl back into it.

Madison Smartt Bell

Towson

The writer is a novelist who teaches writing at Goucher College.

A day of fasting, grief and reflection

Today, on the first anniversary of Sept. 11, and for the next two days, many friends, (Muslims and non-Muslims) will be joining my wife and I in commemorating the deaths of all innocent victims of Sept. 11 by fasting from sunrise to sunset. For me, this will be a time for renewed grief, remembrance and contemplation about what happened, why it happened and also the aftermath of Sept. 11.

I will be fasting, and urge all Muslim-Americans to fast and to contemplate how and why such odious crimes were committed in the name of Islam, a peaceful religion.

I am neither the king of Saudi Arabia nor the mufti of Mecca, but a simple man, an Arab- and Muslim-American. In the name of my misused religion, heritage and culture, I ask the families who lost loved ones for forgiveness. My prayers and thoughts are with you.

As a member of the Arab- and Muslim-American community, I feel and share with all Americans the deep pain and sorrow about what happened on Sept. 11.

And I urge my fellow Americans, the media and politicians not to stigmatize the Arab- and Muslim-American communities and not to blame them for the heinous crimes committed a year ago.

I beseech everyone not to associate an entire community with the acts and crimes of individuals. We are part of you. Your grief is our grief.

Mohamed Esa

Westminster

The writer teaches German at McDaniel College.

Compassion breaks barriers of ethnicity

Regardless of our nationality, on Sept. 11, 2001, at Ground Zero, we were all the same -- black, white, Native American, Hispanic, Arab-American, all covered in ash and heartbroken. All the same. Americans in mourning.

My heart was saddened. But I was extremely proud of my brothers and sisters in fire service who heeded the call and moved immediately to assist others despite the risk -- many paying the ultimate price.

Several members of my organization work full-time for the Baltimore City Fire Department and part-time for the U.S. armed forces. Some of their lives were disrupted when they answered the call to serve our nation in active military service in the global war on terrorism.

This tragedy exposed all Americans to the good and not-so-good in us. The United States became color-blind and began to build a strong bond between all Americans. This was the first time that I have ever seen one national, United States.

It is my hope and prayer that the unity and compassion shown on Sept. 11, 2001, will become a permanent part of America and be perfected in our everyday living.

Sheri Luck

Baltimore

The writer is president of the Vulcan Blazers, an organization of Baltimore's African-American firefighters.

Let ideals triumph over our mourning

As a rabbi, I try to draw from the wisdom of my religious tradition. When someone in a Jewish family dies, our tradition prescribes one year of ritualized mourning. However, when the year is up, we suspend the rituals of mourning.

We do this not because we expect to have completely healed the wounds of broken hearts. We do so because if we don't we run the risk of turning mourning, which is a process on the way to recovery, into melancholy, which can poison and scar all of life.

Individuals who have been bereaved and who heal slowly certainly need to recall their losses each year, but a nation needs to transcend them.

My belief is that we have been deeply traumatized by the first Sept. 11 and that we must now prevent it from interfering with our nation's healing.

We must overcome the fears that have come to haunt us and that inhibit our ability to embrace life. The Osama bin Ladens of the world must not be allowed to gain the upper hand.

The ideals of our nation must be asserted anew, in all their power and for all time.

Rabbi Mark G. Loeb

Pikesville

The writer is the senior rabbi of Beth El Congregation in Pikesville.

Learning the depth of our strength

I remember girls and boys crying. I remember hearing classes were canceled and grief centers were being set up by teachers who needed help themselves. I remember my boyfriend frantically calling his father, who worked in New York City.

I remember not being able to go home because the roads were closed. I later heard that one friend's brother was killed in the Pentagon attack.

And yet my most clear memory is of that perfect day, when it seemed nothing could go wrong, before the sky fell in.

I don't know if I can put into words all that I learned that day.

I do know that I learned what family is and how to appreciate it -- my father's bad jokes, my mother's idiosyncrasies, my sister's cheerfully scowling face.

I learned what fear is: fear for those I love, fear for others and fear for my country. I learned to treasure each day for what it is, for those special moments that are all we have in life.

More important than what I learned, though, is what America learned. We learned that we are more than a mass of people living under a flag. We are people who, from California to Boston, care enough about each other to cry when tragedy strikes. We learned the heart of America, the fierceness of our country and the true depth of the American spirit.

We learned that we are as strong as we want to be.

Sarah Estes

Towson

The writer is a junior at Goucher College.

Enemies can't break the ties that bind us

One year ago, our nation was attacked in a brutal and cowardly fashion. More than 3,000 American lives were lost that day, including 14 graduates of the United States Naval Academy killed at the Pentagon, in the World Trade Center, in Pennsylvania and on the hijacked aircrafts.

The men and women who died on Sept. 11 left an enormous hole in our hearts, and they will never be forgotten. Our thoughts and prayers are still with them, their loved ones and their many friends.

The enemies who attacked us on Sept. 11 sought to destroy our way of life. They thought they would break our spirit and resolve. They couldn't have been more wrong. Those who planned and executed the attacks failed to anticipate that every man, woman and child in America would be filled with a resolve to rise up and defend this great land from those who would take our way of life, our freedom and our prosperity.

As President Bush said, "Enemies of freedom committed an act of war against our country." He then asked for our help, saying, "We all have a job to do" in the nation's response to the terrorists attacks.

Across the country, every patriotic American heard this message loud and clear. Alumni of the U.S. Naval Academy heard this challenge, too, and have risen to it in every respect. Over the ensuing year, they have answered the president's challenge to "be ready," and have been on the front lines of our nation's response to the events of Sept. 11.

This is not unlike another war in the Pacific some half-century ago in which alumni from the classes of 1904 to 1909, such as Nimitz, Halsey, Spruance and Fletcher, led the nation to victory. The USNA alumni serving today are another link in that chain -- the great legacy that binds this nation together.

The events of Sept. 11 and America's response have only served to drive home the solemnity and importance of being a midshipman.

Vice Adm. Richard J. Naughton

Annapolis

The writer is superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy.

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