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Marking 9/11 - a year later

Thursday, September 12, 2002

Remembering a mentor

University of Pittsburgh freshman Lauren Feintuch, her face raw with emotion, got an embrace from a classmate yesterday before crossing the lawn outside the Cathedral of Learning.

Stretched out in rows behind her were American flags -- one each for the more than 3,000 people killed or missing in the Sept. 11 attacks.

One flag fluttering in the wind bore a name painfully familiar from her grade school days: Alan Feinberg, 48, a New York City firefighter killed in the World Trade Center, was her beloved assistant soccer coach in her hometown of Marlboro, N.J.

"He was such a nice man," she said, her voice trailing off. "He answered a fire call. He didn't know what was happening. They never found him."

Across the campus yesterday, academics debated issues surrounding the attacks, while others inside Heinz Chapel simply bowed heads in prayer.

The most visible symbol of grief was the display of flags. They were planted after a brief speech by Chancellor Mark Nordenberg and a moment of silence marking the start of the World Trade Center attack.

"I'm more aware of the dangers in the world obviously, but also the beautiful spirit," sophomore Chris Nolan, 20, of Erie, said.

Nathan Mason, 29, a senior and president of the Muslim Student Association, was struck by all the blood being shed across religions and nations when people seem to want basically the same thing. "Everyone wants to live a good life," he said.

Compassion and couscous

As his Christian and Jewish guests walked softly in their stocking feet among the educational displays on Islam, Adel Fergany welcomed them to the open house in memory of Sept. 11 at the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh.

"I wish I had the opportunity to meet you all under better circumstances," said Fergany, president of the mosque.

He offered a prayer for all victims of terrorism, especially those who died on Sept. 11.

Then he urged the visitors to eat from a table laden with intercultural delicacies: couscous from Algeria, baklava from Egypt, raw dates from Saudi Arabia, apple pie from the United States and even Jewish honey cake baked by the mother of a Jewish convert to Islam.

The organizers had worried that the food might make the open house seem like a celebration, but their faith requires them to serve food to guests. They prepared to serve at least 300 and had seen 211 enter before the four-hour open house was half over.

"Sharing food is essential to our religion. If we share food together, we are brothers and sisters in humanity," said Maysa Gharib, a veterinarian originally from Egypt who now does research at the University of Pittsburgh.

"We want to say to all the people of Pittsburgh, 'Consider the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh your home. Come here to share ideas. Come here to share food.' "

A rage inside

About 500 people, many of them public servants, packed a remembrance ceremony in the portico of the City-County Building on Grant Street yesterday.

In the gathering place for government workers, thoughts turned to other public employees -- like New York City firefighters and armed forces in Afghanistan -- who responded to the attacks a year ago.

"I think that day everybody maintained their professionalism ... with the rage [against the terrorists] inside. You can't understate the rage that, when you think about it, still comes through," said Bob Kennedy, Pittsburgh's paramedics chief.

Last year, Kennedy was watching the attacks while waiting for a meeting in Mayor Tom Murphy's office and has since chaired the city's disaster preparedness council. He has worked for the city 27 years, since joining the fledgling medics corps after returning from the Vietnam War.

Kennedy presided over the 25-minute ceremony yesterday, which was marked by public safety officials reading names of passengers on hijacked United Flight 93, and by remarks by Murphy and Allegheny County Chief Executive Jim Roddey.

Firefighters, police and paramedics in full dress uniform were scattered throughout the crowd, which spilled out the doors onto the Grant Street sidewalk.

Many, uniformed and not, wept during the ceremony, which ended with the city Fire Bureau's bagpipe band playing "Amazing Grace."

The voices of children

At St. Mary of the Mount, the historic Catholic church on Mount Washington overlooking the Golden Triangle, yesterday morning's service led by schoolchildren was part daily Mass and part civics lesson.

Tears, laughter, a standing ovation for local heroes and a 21-gun salute along Grandview Avenue were all part of the program.

The service began at 10 a.m. when four students from St. Mary of the Mount Elementary School each carried a candle adorned with red, white and blue ribbon to the altar to symbolize the four planes that crashed a year ago.

A children's chorus sang "America the Beautiful" for a procession of people representing police, firefighters, paramedics, the military, the medical community, pilots and flight attendants, the media and construction workers.

The Rev. Louis Vallone drew on the Gospel of Luke, using what he called "the CliffsNotes version of the Beatitudes" for his homily. Vallone said that in spite of the horror, pain and death that Sept. 11 brought the country, "for people of faith, our land, our people, our goals and our ideas are still here."

The eighth-grade class of St. Mary of the Mount school, with the help of veterans from Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall, then took turns explaining the meaning of each of the 12 steps in the folding of the flag, from the first, standing for life, until it is tucked into a neat triangle with the stars facing up, representing the country's motto, "In God We Trust."

The breath of life

One of Rabbi David Novitsky's most vivid memories of the World Trade Center was seeing a girl who lost a relative there breathe in deeply when she was at the site.

Inhaling helped her connect with the person who died.

"The trade center is like sacred ground. It's like the whole site is a resting place for their loved ones," said Novitsky, who counseled people at Ground Zero.

Rabbi at Washington's Beth Israel Synagogue, Novitsky was one of several clergy and officials who spoke at a brief memorial service at Washington Hospital yesterday. The ceremony drew about 150, who recited the pledge of allegiance, sang "God Bless America" and then left in silence.

Novitsky was in Philadelphia last Sept. 11. He offered his services as rabbi and attorney and went to New York about three weeks later. Having been to concentration camps in Europe, he found the World Trade Center, where more than 2,800 died, equally moving.

He was saddened to learn recently that some of the steel recovered from the site is being sent to Asia.

The steel is part of every person who died there, he said. Why not incorporate it into a monument, Novitsky asked, instead of using it to create a new structure elsewhere?

Tears amid the quiet

It was 8:46 a.m. and all was quiet inside the cavernous Baldwin Community United Methodist Church.

Almost. There was a stray clearing of a throat and, near the back of the sanctuary, Louise Womack wiped her eyes and softly wept.

Womack and about 120 others gathered at the church for an ecumenical service to remember the morning a year ago when planes were turned into missiles.

The first plane struck New York's World Trade Center at 8:46, and yesterday's moment of silence at the church service was planned to coincide with that time.

"We intentionally wanted to bring people together at this moment," said the church's associate minister, the Rev. Gregory Cox. "We thought it was important that the community come together to remember."

Womack, 63, of Baldwin, wore a long-sleeved blouse with a stars-and-stripes design. "I'm just here to hope and pray," she said.

There were psalms and pleas for peace. Cox was assisted by Lutheran and Presbyterian clergy and a nun from the Sisters of St. Francis. Volunteer firefighters also participated.

Womack greeted them on her way out the door. "I don't know you," she said, "but God bless you."

Market Square unity

Wearing Muslim head coverings, Pakistan natives Nayyra Ilyas and Mona Chaudhry were at the front of the nearly 1,000 people who packed Market Square, Downtown, for yesterday's Sept. 11 memorial service.

"Like everyone else, we are yearning for peace all over the world," said Ilyas, of Fox Chapel.

The noontime crowd, standing beneath intermittent sunlight, listened as Mayor Tom Murphy, Allegheny County Chief Executive Jim Roddey and Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Hindu leaders spoke and prayed for unity and remembrance.

Meredith Wille, a National Aviary official, held a somewhat agitated American bald eagle named Glory as people waved hand-held flags and sang "God Bless America" and other patriotic songs led by Tony Priscaro of Cranberry, who opened the program with a song he wrote, "God Bless the U.S.A. 2001."

At the end of the program, about 15 demonstrators from the Thomas Merton Center and the Pittsburgh Organizing Group carried signs protesting federal anti-terrorism arrests over the past year ("Round-ups and lynchings won't make us safer") and chanted "War, oppression, the George Bush obsession."

Diane Martinez of Beechview, like many others, wore her patriotism. She had a jacket, T-shirt and sash with American flag patterns.

"I just look up in the sky and wonder what they're doing," she said of those who died in the attacks. "I'm wishing I could have done more."

A history discussion

By fourth period on Sept. 11, 2001, Plum Senior High School history teacher Heather Toth finally believed what students had told her: Terrorists had struck America.

This year, fourth period began with a districtwide moment of silence in memory of those who died aboard United Flight 93. Then Toth began leading her American History 2 class in a discussion of that day's impact.

Teachers across the country had debated how -- or whether -- to approach the subject. To Toth, the discussion was important because the students have been living through a major historical event.

"At first, I thought it was a joke," said sophomore Steve Robinson, recalling how he felt a year ago. Now he believes the United States can't afford to ignore even the smallest country.

Other ripples the students have felt:

"We learned to appreciate everyday life itself," said Rachael Risbon.

"Some of our freedoms have been taken away," added Sean Russell.

But when it came to security checks at airports, Robinson said, "I'd rather have more security than not enough."

Tom McCarthy, a ninth-grade history teacher at O'Block Junior High School, is glad students in the district discussed 9/11. "To ignore that event, leaves questions in the minds and eyes of your students. Education is not just the book."

'Don't mess with us'

Doug McKain pedaled his bicycle up Main Street from his apartment yesterday to join the throng that converged in Diamond Park in downtown Butler for ceremonies marking the Sept. 11 anniversary.

McKain, 26, was there because he wanted to send a message.

"I'm here to say, 'Don't mess with us. 'Cause no matter what you do to the American people, we'll bounce back, stronger than ever.' "

Butler marked the anniversary with patriotic songs, speeches by civic and military officials, bagpipes, the playing of taps, and the "striking of the four fives" -- a traditional memorial for fallen firefighters that sounds five bells, four times in a row.

The event was organized by American Legion Post 117 in Butler and was attended by hundreds who lined a two-block area fronting the courthouse.

Norman Weber, 33, of Saxonburg, brought his mother, Martha, to the ceremony. In her 71 years, she has seen a lot of tragedy, including Pearl Harbor, but she said she was deeply moved by the events of a year ago.

"It was a terrible thing. A hard thing to even understand. All those people lost. All their families left behind," she said. Attending the ceremony was "just a small way of paying respect."

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