Juneau recalls events 1 year later

Posted: Wednesday, September 11, 2002

At the Village Barbershop, crew cuts never go out of style and a walk-in customer, waiting for his $14 trim, may peruse a copy of Easy Rider Magazine with a leggy blonde sitting astride a muscled Harley on the cover. There, over the buzz of a vintage pair of clippers, cowboy-booted barber Joe Shepherd reflected on the eve of Sept. 11.

"I was in bed when I heard about it (last year), and at first I thought it was a small plane, so I didn't get up."

"No need to sober up for that," quipped the barber next to him, his client chuckling in the chair.

"Then I got the news on TV on CNN, so I started paying more attention, and I thought, 'Wow, this is something else,' " said Shepherd, 37. "Still, I never dreamt it would be something that changed America ... that made America lose its innocence, I guess."

As the anniversary of Sept. 11 approached Tuesday evening, Shepherd was one of millions of Americans trying to make sense of the tragic events that shocked the world last year. In Juneau, more than 3,000 miles from where thousands died when the country was attacked by terrorists, some residents said they were saddened, others said they felt detached, and still others looked at the attacks, and the country's recovery from them, as a lesson in the power of faith, and a reminder to value every day.

At the Northern Echoes Bible Shop, soft-spoken employee Violeta Lumba, 43, standing among racks of pastel prayer cards, recalled hearing about the attacks last year while she was in her hometown, Davao, in the Mindanao region of the Philippines. There, people are used to hearing about acts of violence performed by Muslim extremist groups who have had a presence in the country for many years, she said.

After reflection and much prayer, Lumba said she believes the attacks were like a message from God, "a prophesy" about his power to both destroy and comfort, she said.

"It was something to awaken people," she said, adding that she prayed the United States would not go to war with Iraq.

"It is in God's hands. We believe that America is a loving and caring country and we don't want anything to happen," she said.

At the nearby First National Bank of Anchorage, Peter Sommers, a 23-year-old art student at the University of Alaska Southeast, waited for a friend at the teller window. He was wearing a black sweatshirt with metal studs on his sleeve and a patch on his chest that read "Rage Against the Machine."

When he heard about Sept. 11, he was in his apartment in Spokane, Wash. His girlfriend called him and told him to get to a TV.

"I feel sad for the loss of life, but every other part of the world had to deal with this stuff. I think it was inevitable that it would happen here," Sommers said.

Downtown, in Rep. Albert Kookesh's office in the Capitol, aide Nancy Barnes, 46, wrote e-mail messages under a picture of Alaska Native subsistence proponent Katie John. As she watched the Twin Towers burn on TV from her Douglas home last year, Barnes said she felt like she was watching a Bruce Willis movie. Lately, she thinks the relentless media coverage has been too sensational. Sometimes, she said, she has to turn it off.

Though she tries not to think about it, since the attacks, Barnes occasionally imagines disaster scenarios, and said she feels "a little nervous" about friends who are flying today.

"I remember when that first flight came in (to Juneau after Sept. 11), you know it was the 9:30 from Seattle, my friends and I were talking but when we heard it fly over, we all kind of froze," she said.

In the post office at the Federal Building, Judith Hendriksen, 44, a program assistant with the U.S. Coast Guard, said her family lives in New Jersey and saw the smoking towers from across the Hudson River last year.

"Sept. 11 has reminded me never to take life for granted because it can go, it can go in a second, and it can be gone," she said. "We have to cherish the people we love."

Julia O'Malley can be reached at jomalley@juneauempire.com.

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