Seattle Center's International Fountain became a gathering place again Sunday to remember the Sept. 11 attacks. The fountain drew about 100 people with deep feelings about what the event meant to them. A decade ago, 30,000 people assembled here to grieve the nearly 3,000 lives lost in the attacks.
Around this fountain they sat, silhouettes in the predawn glow of tea candles, where only 10 years ago, 30,000 people in the Seattle area gathered to grieve a terrifying wound to the American psyche.
Sure, only dozens attended Sunday’s ceremony at Seattle Center’s International Fountain marking the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
But their feelings ran deep, like the gong of the Kobe Bell that rang four times — at 5:46 a.m., 6:03 a.m., 6:37 a.m. and 7:03 a.m. — to mark the loss of lives in New York, Washington, D.C., and a field in Pennsylvania.
Strangers hugged. Volunteers proffered coffee and muffins. And after 8 a.m., a selection of music that included Bach’s violin concerto, a West African harp and a Middle Eastern lute lifted the heavy air, neither mournful nor celebratory, releasing tears.
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“It’s a good cry,” said Megg Hagele, 83, a native New Yorker and Seattle resident. “Because I believe in America, what we can give to the world, what we can give to the future generation.”
She didn’t come to dwell on the scene here a decade ago. Instead, “I came to hear the music and to be reassured by life, by watching the children run by the fountain.”
The memories of Sept. 11 were still vivid for some. One woman wiped tears from behind her sunglasses and spoke in halting whispers about seeing the smoke at the Pentagon and attempting to call friends who were in the World Trade Center.
For others, the attacks prompted new life choices.
“I’ve always wanted to help people out but I didn’t know how,” said Aster Susa, 28, who was a high-school senior in Hawaii that September. Today she’s a nurse at Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center, working in an intensive-care unit.
Joel Secan, 31, heard a similar call when he was a student at the University of Arizona in Tucson. “I decided to become a firefighter because of 9/11,” said Secan, a member of the Bothell Fire Department.
He and his wife, Jessica, laid a bouquet of flowers Sunday at a shrine set up at the north end of the fountain. Their baby son, Elliott, stared in fascination at passers-by, including bicyclists and people walking their dogs around the fountain.
Parents who brought their children along said they wanted them to know about Sept. 11 and its impact.
“The whole thing is pretty abstract to them,” said Nikolai Faaland, 32, of his 6-year-old daughter, Dylan, and 3-year-old son, Henry.
Since 9/11, the nation has fought two wars, suffered an economic calamity not seen since the Great Depression and become increasingly cynical and polarized about government.
Still, “today I’m not feeling very political,” Faaland said.
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell and King County Executive Dow Constantine each touched on the theme of unity in brief remarks before a wreath-laying ceremony at the fountain.
The gathering isn’t just reflecting on the past, but “what we can hope for the next 10 years, and the next 10 years,” said Ladan Yalzadeh, founder of 10+ Seattle, who organized the morning’s silent reflection and ceremony in conjunction with Seattle Center.
Yalzadeh, a Seattle resident who was born in Iran, was in Lower Manhattan producing a video for a client when the planes struck the twin towers.
In the days afterward, she felt distinct discomfort about being from the Middle East.
She said she hopes people choose to open their hearts, rather than turn to fear.
“If we can put ourself in someone else’s shoes, there will be more understanding, more compassion and hopefully less violence.”
Sanjay Bhatt: 206-464-3103 or firstname.lastname@example.org