Juneau residents worry about friends, relatives on East Coast

Posted: Wednesday, September 12, 2001

Juneau resident Paul Helmar is dealing with the loss of three relatives killed in Tuesday's terrorist attacks.

Helmar's cousin Peter Hanson and Hanson's wife, Susan, and daughter Christine, 2, were passengers on United Airlines flight 175, one of the doomed planes flown into the World Trade Center.

Helmar, owner of downtown's Juneau Photo Works, got word Tuesday that his cousin, from Boston, used his cell phone before the plane crashed.

"He had called his dad in flight and said there were seven hijackers on board," Helmar said. "I was really shocked. I didn't know what to say. Just kind of stunned."

Helmar was one of a number of Juneau residents with direct connections to those in the path of Tuesday's terrorist attacks.

Coast Guard Public Affairs Officer Chris Grisafe worried about the safety of a friend who works near the Trade Center.

"His wife just called me and let me know he is OK, and working on a Coast Guard rescue boat transferring (injured) people from one side of Manhattan near the incident to the New Jersey side so they can get medical attention because hospitals are getting filled up," Grisafe said Tuesday afternoon.

Gov. Tony Knowles worried about Devon, his 21-year-old daughter, a recent New York University graduate who works about 20 blocks from the World Trade Center.

Knowles reached her about 7:30 a.m. Alaska time Tuesday, about three hours after the first plane crashed into the North Tower.

"She was in tears. She said everybody had to have masks on at the location she was at because of the dust and debris in the air," Knowles said at a press conference Tuesday. "Up to that point I had not fully comprehended what it was and the effect. It is just of proportions that are almost unimaginable."

Knowles said he told his daughter, "Hold tight. Don't go anywhere and just listen to the radio until you get a feel for how things are. ... It was the kind of advice a father would give a daughter that you would never expect to have to give on the telephone."

Juneau School Board President Mary Becker was concerned about her brother, George, who has an apartment at the Marriott in Lower Manhattan and keeps an office four blocks from the twin Trade Center towers, although he lives in Texas and commutes back and forth. By coincidence, he had left his apartment before the attacks.

"By the grace of God he was saved. He's OK and is driving home," Becker said after reaching her sister-in-law in Texas.

Suzanne Crabtree worried about her sister-in-law's brother, Trevor Williams, who works at the Trade Center. She made a number of calls and finally heard that he was actually on vacation in Italy.

"When bad things happen and you hear it on the news, you always think that it only happens to other people. My family's heart breaks for the families affected by this tragedy. The world is a lot smaller than I like to think," Crabtree said.

Ann Chandonnet can be reached at achandonnet@juneauempire.com. Empire reporter Kathy Dye contributed to this article.

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