Sept. 11 horror still apparent on year anniversary
Baldwin City residents may have been spared from personal devastation from the vicious Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that left thousands dead at the hands of terrorists. But, no one was spared the scars of what those attacks have meant to their lives.
Everyone remembers where they were at 8:50 a.m. that day, when planes were flown into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and rural Pennsylvania. The horror that caused is still very fresh and has changed the lives of all Americans forever. The Rev. Ira DeSpain has counseled many people from the community during the ensuing year and knows first hand the lingering effects.
It varies from person to person, but no one escaped.
"What I've noticed over the last year in general is that life seems more intense," said DeSpain, Baker University minister and Baldwin resident. "People are carrying those wounds.
"Subsequent sadness' have been amplified because we are more vulnerable. Even the things hat are less tragic on a scale of one to 10 are more amplified."
There's also a sense of lost innocence, so to speak. Those attacks destroyed more than buildings and killed thousands of innocent people. They forced a huge change on the United States, one that was never wanted and will never go away.
"We want things to be normal again the way they used to be," said DeSpain. "And, no, that will never happen. We're at war. We're a world at war. I think we spend a lot of time trying to think about that.
"It's different than in the past, too. The war on terrorism is personalized by Bin Laden, but it's much less defined than that," he said. "In the Cold War we knew who the Russians were. We knew where they were. With this, we don't and I think that's causing us a great deal of stress."
All the unknowns are bad enough, he says, but the main concern is a complete uncertainty of when or if it will ever end.
"It's the underlying idea, in my opinion, is we're in for a long ordeal here," said DeSpain.
People are easily shaken as a result of 9-11, he said, using as an example a phone call he received the other day from the mother of a Baker student. She asked how things were at the chapel (Baker's well known Clarice B. Osborne Memorial Chapel where today's Sept. 11 remembrance service is being held at 8:50 a.m.). He told her it was fine. She had heard on the Kansas City television news that there had been a pipe bomb found at the chapel.
In reality, the story she had heard on the news was about what was first believed to be a pipe bomb found in Baldwin City at First and Chapel streets. It turned out to be a basically harmless home-made device.
"That's an example of people being more afraid, more cautious, more on edge," said DeSpain.
What he has also seen is people wanting to be more involved, to do something to help out for all those that did suffer personally from the terrorist attacks.
"Ever since, everyone has wanted to do something in the same way that people make food for a family who has lost someone," he said. "There's been a lot of interest in that from the first doing something significant to help. That's how many people deal with the grief, with acts of kindness."
One such Baldwin group was led by Dan and Peggy Harris, Baldwin residents and Baker professors. They had already made arrangements for a group of 22 Baker students to travel to New York City during the interterm session in the middle of January which was prior to Sept. 11. After the attacks, the group quickly decided to turn that trip into a volunteer effort to help out. The Harasses and the students helped out at the Ground Zero Food Service area where meals were made and delivered to those working at the Trade Center cleanup site.
Although the trip wasn't scheduled for such an event, it was a way for the group to help out the best they could.
"It was that very much," said Peggy Harris. "It was very powerful. It was so overwhelming. All the hand written messages at Ground Zero were just heart breaking. Visitors from all of the United States and all over the world had written their feelings. It was very, very sad.
"Some of us cooked, some of us delivered," said Harris. "We drew straws to see who would go to the actual sites because everyone wanted to help more. I think everyone wanted to go. It was a way pay your respects."
DeSpain and his wife, Barbara, also made a pilgrimage to the site. They were there on the day of a ceremony when the last steel girder was removed. Although they didn't attend the ceremony, they saw the results.
"We saw a bunch of firefighters who had been at the ceremony. We walked up on the platform where it was held," he said. "It was deeply moving to see the fire patches that had been tacked up on the plywood wall leading up to it."
Although for many the attacks weren't personal, it has taken its toll on everyone, he said.
"This is an American tragedy that we all share," said DeSpain. "The attack was nondiscriminatory. That's one of the ironies, the sadness'. The attack was a blind attack. It wasn't an attack on one religion, one group. It was random. There were 80 to 100 people from other countries killed in the towers. There were Muslims, Jews and Christians killed."
A year later, DeSpain's best advice regarding the attacks is to move on.
"I still No. 1 believe we go about business as usual. If we become terrorized, there terrorists have won," he said. "Secondly, I think that advice is regardless of religious faith.
"These are unsettled times and our world is going to change more rapidly than it has."