Friday Harbor remembers victims and heroes of Sept. 11, 2001

Downtown streets were briefly silent this morning in remembrance of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks that claimed more than 2,900 lives in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.

Adults and children stood in doorways and on sidewalks along Spring Street as a small procession headed from the corner of Argyle Avenue and Spring Street to Memorial Park. The stillness of the morning was broken by the flutter of flags and the sound of small planes headed to Friday Harbor Airport.

Guard Sundstrom watched the procession from the bench on Spring and Second streets. He teared up when he remembered the lives that were lost that day seven years ago.

“I was watching the news this morning. It was pretty tearful to watch all the people that went in and helped,” he said. “They showed a picture of them. You forget about that — (the people) standing in the building and having to jump.”

Pastor Joe Gamez walked in the procession, then gave the prayer that closed the day’s remembrance.

“I’ve been thinking a lot of the families that lost their loved ones,” he said. “That’s got to be a heavy time. I imagine there’s a lot of people still hurt by it. It would be a bummer for us to forget what a lot of these people suffered. Whether you stand on the right or the left side, it doesn’t matter. People lost their lives. That’s been on my heart.”

Observers and participants in today’s ceremony reflected on how America has changed since that day.

Jim Cox of San Juan Island commented on “the awareness dawning on Americans that terrorism is a real, real threat to our national security and to our well being. That’s what 9/11 pointed out to all of us, that it’s not some item that happens on other shores, that it just affects other people, it doesn’t affect us. Well, buddy, here it is right here and now.”

Indeed, today’s events seemed to remind observers and participants that the terrorist attacks left no corner of the country untouched — even here, in this northernmost county in the continental United States. More than 50 soldiers, sailors, airmen or Marines with local ties served in the ensuing Iraq War; two soldiers with San Juan ties were killed in action, two others were injured. And islanders have been subjected to citizenship checks in Anacortes.

“It was seven years ago that changed the course of our future as a nation and it was also a time that we all stepped up and came together,” said Friday Harbor Town Council member Carrie Lacher, who walked in the procession. “It’s a good day to remember those things and to honor those people who fell in the service of their country.”

Of how the country has changed since 9/11, she said, “Unfortunately, we’re more afraid of each other. There’s this kind of this underlying sense of fear and paranoia that I think we need to somehow get across so that we can embrace each other as neighbors again.”

Gamez added, “We’re going in a different direction. Maybe we’re getting a little bit complacent. We need to get a little bit more active in supporting our troops and our president. Whether you stand on the left or the right, there’s a real threat out there. I’d hate for us to (think) that we’re so great we can’t be hurt again.”

The procession started at 8:55 a.m. From 9:11-9:12 a.m., there was a minute of silence. American Legion Post 163 asked that shop keepers, office workers and pedestrians stand in silence on the spot for those 60 seconds. The minute of silence was broken by the firing of a cannon.

Mayor David Jones read a proclamation asking islanders to “join our voices with others throughout the country, to transform the pain of our memories into a resolve that our nation will remain safe, free and undaunted.”

After Gamez’s closing prayer, EMS, fire and sheriff’s vehicles sounded their sirens in memory of the rescue workers who arrived on the attack scenes seven years ago. Then the crowd dispersed.

The commemoration was sponsored by the American Legion, American Legion Auxiliary, Friday Harbor Fire Department, Friday Harbor Presbyterian Church, Kiwanis Club, San Juan Island EMS, San Juan Island Fire Department, San Juan County Sheriff Department, and the Town of Friday Harbor.

9-11 Commemoration Committee members were Ray Bigler, Jim Cox, Robin Delazerda, Alex Gavora, Ary Hobbel, Bob Kelly, Minnie Knych, Jim Knych, Linn Motko, Mike Nachlinger, Frank Penwell, Gordy Petersen, Dan Sorgen, Rex Stickle, Jill Urbach, Dave Vandaveer.