Just trying to do our jobs
. . .
It started out like any other workday, Sept. 11, 2001.
My Tommy Cat wakes me up about a minute before the clock alarm
would go off at 5:45 (uncanny how he does that). We start the
morning routine: to the bathroom, then Tommy leads the way to
the kitchen to be fed, I flip on Channel 3 news on the way. After
feeding the cats (Lefty is now also mine after a neighbor abandoned
him), I start the coffee, then go brush my teeth.
Coming back through the bedroom I hear Charlie and Diane on the
television - what are they doing on so early? Did we lose power
during the night? Are my clocks wrong? I hurry into the living
room to check out what's happening. Oh, my God!
I sit with Tommy on my lap, sipping my coffee and watching the
events unfold for about an hour, more aghast every minute. Seeing
the second plane crash into the second tower told us all with
no uncertainty that these were planned attacks. But why? Who?
Then the Pentagon, too. Oh, my gosh, how much worse can it get?
When the first tower crashed, I bolted upright, put Tommy on
the chair - I wanted to run and scream, but I was frozen, stunned.
It was too terrible, unreal, unthinkable. Oh, dear God, this
was too awful to comprehend.
My mind was reeling, my heart was pounding as I hurriedly dressed
for work. I was already later than usual and wondered what would
lie ahead for us at the Ojai Valley News, where I work mainly
as an editorial assistant. What changes would we have to make
to the Wednesday edition we would be putting together that day?
Driving into Ojai from Meiners Oaks, I wondered if everyone knew
yet. Some people don't get up and watch the news first thing
in the morning. I was grateful that when I got to work Jodie
Miller, our business manager, would already be there. She gets
in around 7 a.m. every day, and she's a newshound, so she would
know. I didn't think I could possibly try to explain it to anyone.
Thinking about the office, I suddenly remembered that we had
two co-workers who were on vacation on the East Coast - Cheryl
Anne Gilman was in Boston visiting her first grandchild (oh God,
she wasn't flying back today was she?!), and Phil Wikel and 4-year-old
son Dylan were in South Carolina visiting Phil's family. After
greeting Jodie when I arrived at the office, this was one of
the first things I mentioned. Yeh, she'd thought about that,
too. She checked their schedules; luckily, neither was flying
back today. But she would call them just to be sure they were
OK. I was so grateful that I knew my three adult children (all
in their 30s now) and my five grandchildren were all in California,
out of harm's way (at least, physically).
We don't have cable television at the office, but we did get
a radio news station tuned in. We began slowly, tentatively trying
to figure out how to approach this painful day, with the national
news changing by the minute. Bret, Lenny and Chris were making
calls - to the Red Cross, to the Office of Emergency Services,
to the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation - rearranging
story priorities and front-page layout. Tension hung heavy in
the air. It was hard to concentrate. I don't remember eating
lunch that day; I suppose I ate something at my desk.
I remember getting the somber call from Gloria Melendez (or was
that the next day?). They had to cancel the Mexican Fiesta scheduled
for Sunday; they couldn't possibly have a party now. They would
have to find other ways to raise the scholarship funds. Then
there was the call from George Walczak, director of the Ojai
Film Festival. They couldn't possibly go ahead with the free
screening of "The Planet of the Apes" now; it was scheduled
for Friday evening at Libbey Bowl - they would hold a community
Somehow we trudged through the day; we got another edition ready
for the press. That was our job and we did it. We were lucky
- so many others didn't get to do their jobs on that nightmarish
The drive home was eery and muted. It seemed like everyone was
moving in slow motion, there was no music from car radios, everyone
waited an extra second or two at stop signs. We were all in pain,
Back at home, I had to watch the news on television, of course,
I just had to know as much as I could, no matter how painful.
I called my youngest son, Michael Talmage and his wife, Janice,
in Ventura, first. They're my "local call." They were
doing OK - I love you, I love you, too. They said my daughter
(my oldest), Lorie Madrid, and her family were off camping. I
called their home in Oxnard anyway and said I love you on the
message machine. (She called me the next day. They had been frolicking
by the lake when fellow campers came up to them and told them
they had to listen to the news on their radio. They did. The
frolicking was over. They packed up camp and headed home.)
Then my middle son, David Talmage and his wife, Toni, called
me from Clovis. They knew I would need to hear David's voice,
he is a captain with the Fresno Fire Department. What an agonizing
day it had been for him and all firefighters and police. But
he told me they were all just doing their jobs - jobs in which
they took great pride - important jobs they felt good about doing,
helping people and doing the best they could. Yes, I knew that,
but but do you know how much I love you? Yes, Mom, I know. I
love you, too. We'll be OK I love you, I love you, too.
Then I finally cried, and cried - and prayed for everyone and
for strength to carry on in the grim days ahead. And I cried
again; I don't know if I can ever cry enough.
- Linda Love Griffin,
Sept. 10, 2001
I was on a week-long motorcycle camping trip of California during
September. I was heading down the coast from Eureka and took
a photo of me and my Gold Wing in a drive-through tree in Leggett
on Sept. 10 (I have since named that photo "The Day Before").
After setting up camp I called my sister in Vacaville and said
I should arrive sometime tomorrow.
That was our biggest "concern"; what time I would arrive
at her place on Sept. 11.
As I popped out of my tent the next morning at around 6 a.m.
there was in erie feeling in the campground. I walked to a motorhome
two campsites over and asked what was happening. They invited
me in to see their satellite television and I saw one of the
towers in flames. Then I saw the second jet hit. I felt terrible.
When I would arrive at my sister's today just didn't matter anymore.
During the ride to Vacaville I felt very numb and that night
my sis tried to show me around town, but understandably almost
all the businesses were closed. So my sister and I went back
to her place and prayed for the families.
What amazed me the most about the attack was the terrorists'
planning. We have spent so much money and time in protecting
our country from missile attacks from abroad and here it was
done all from within. This group used OUR flight teachers, OUR
jets, OUR fuel, OUR airports, OUR passengers and OUR packed buildings
to accomplish this. We provided them with all the tools they
needed for the attack, and that's what's the saddest.
- Roy Hooper, Ojai
Twin Towers so tall they
interfered with TV
As a 7-year-old child in "upstate" New York I looked
forward, with great anticipation, to the week I would spend with
my grandparents in Yonkers. It was a slice of old summertime
Americana wherein my grandfather would invariably take my brother
and I to a Mets game, or maybe the Empire State Building, and
once, if memory serves, we were even treated to a double-header
at Shea Stadium where I first heard the word "mezzanine"
and where, across the street, stood a metal sculpture of the
Angelo's pizza was just down the street and never failed to create
the best pie that side of Manhattan. It was New York pizza which
now might be seen as a stripped down, back-to-basics variety;
a delight that required no frills or Wolfgang Puckish additives
for its divine taste, only the magic inherent in a New York pizzeria.
The big decision was whether or not to get a "Sicilian."
My brother's favorite pastime during these trips was, being out
of the reach of our folks, to take every opportunity he could
to scare the living hell out of me. I lost a lot of sleep at
Nana and Grandpa's because I truly believed that Godzilla was
going to come and get me. I found refuge from this form of brotherly
love by hanging out on "the stoop," or playing, with
a neighborhood kid named Gerard Petit, which he pronounced "Gelard."
His favorite baseball team was the "New Lork Lankees"
and his love for them was surpassed only by his love for the
"Gleen Bay Plackers." He and I would spend a good part
of Saturday morning glued to the cartoons that most every other
kid in 1973 would be watching. The "Super Friends"
made us believe that anything was possible and we'd often daydream
about hanging out with them in the "Hall of Justice."
Looking back now I feel just a little uneasy when I think about
how we complained that the "Twin Towers" cast a shadow
on the television; they were so tall that they interfered with
the transmission of the signal. This imprint or impression was
like so many you now see in graphics of remembrance, appearing
as ghosts, reminding us of a very recent past.
Gerard was a good little soul and I regret not having kept in
touch with him after moving west. I'm sure he went on to do good
things. Maybe he's building a real hall of justice and maybe
we'll all be invited to its grand opening.
Nana and Grandpa both passed on several years ago. I'm sure Sept.
11 would have broken Nana's heart and I'm equally sure that Grandpa
would've been one of the first to lend a hand afterwards.
My brother is in North Carolina now. I was there with him and
the rest of my family when the attacks took place. There was
no better place to be at that moment because, apparently, the
promised Godzilla had finally come. But we had distance and each
other to keep us safe.
- Philip Scott Wikel,
You don't want to know
After staying two nights in New
York City, we departed by plane on Sept. 9 to join a Cross-Culture
Tour group in Germany for a tour of former East German cities,
which included Berlin, Leipzig, Weimar, Eisenach, and Dresden.
We arrived at our hotel in former East Berlin on Sept. 10 and
settled in. The next day, after an excursion with the group,
the two of us were walking back to the hotel and noticed armed
guards and blocked streets around the American Embassy, which
was approximately a block from our hotel. When we met two ladies
from our group, we asked them how they were doing. Their response
was, "You don't want to know." From their demeanor
and other conversation, we knew something very serious must have
happened in the states. We immediately went to our hotel room
and began watching CNN.
Various emotions come to the fore, one being a sense of uneasiness,
being in a foreign country and not knowing how the populace of
that country views our country. It was with gratitude and pleasant
surprise when that same evening we saw banners expressing sympathy,
and candles and flowers banked at the blocked intersections near
the embassy and at other places throughout Berlin, as well as
other cities we visited later in the tour.
- Richard and Beverly
We ride the subway as far as
it will take us. When we get off in the Financial District, the
air smells like smoke, even now, four weeks later. The first
thing I notice, after all the police and army reserve uniforms,
is how washed-out everything looks. Dust is everywhere and it
drains the color from the buildings, the sky, the people. Trucks
are everywhere, too - imposing big rigs and donated tow trucks
waiting somberly in line for their turn to enter the restricted
zone. Every few minutes another kind of truck comes through,
one that hoses down the streets with water. "It's to keep
the dust down," my mom explains, but it just makes everything
wet and muddy traces of footprints trail off though the streets.
A chain-link fence and a few policemen are all that keep the
tourist-mourners like myself out of the restricted area. I press
my face between the wilting roses intertwined with the chain-link
to catch a glimpse of what is on the other side. The fence is
dull and cold on my cheek; it reminds me the scene is real. It
is hard to remember that this is an actual, tangible place and
that I'm here, not looking at a black-and-white magazine photo.
There's nothing on the other side of the fence except charred
remains and emptiness. It's better on this side with the cards,
flowers, and people.
A block away, I see a missing poster. I only notice it because
it's still dry. It has rained since Sept. 11 and the other posters
schoolchildren have hung run with distorted rivers of red, white
and blue, the thank-yous literally dripping off them. The missing
poster is worse than any film clip or interview I've seen on
TV. Someone cared about this lost person enough to come out and
hang this poster, even now, at this impossibly late date. I'm
still thinking about this when a boy walks by carrying a boombox
playing the song, "God Bless America." As he passes
by, the sound envelops me and then gradually recedes as he moves
down the street.
- Sarah Mirk
Nordhoff High School Junior
A brief moment of happiness
I got up early that morning to
feed my animals.
A friend called me and told me to turn on the television. I watched
in horror the events that unfolded in New York.
As information came out about the planes and their departure/destination
I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I just knew that I had
lost two dear friends who live in Ojai on the flight that left
at 9 a.m. from Boston to Los Angeles.
They visit their children every year in Massachusetts, and return
home each year on the second Tuesday in September on the 9 a.m.
flight out of Boston - in 200l that was Tuesday, Sept. 11. Reluctantly,
I called their daughter in Massachusetts. She told me that her
parents had taken the 9 a.m. flight from Boston to Los Angeles,
but because they needed to get back a day early, they changed
their flight from Tuesday to Monday, Sept. 10.
That news was the only happiness, however brief it may have been,
that I felt on Sept. 11, 2001.
- Nancy Nordstrom
I was going to be happy,
and this was a selfish position
I wasn't going to write anything
for this edition. There's been so much talk and coverage of everything
to do with Sept.11, I didn't feel I could say anything that hadn't
already been said by people wiser and more articulate than I.
But I've had some experiences in the past few weeks that have
changed my mind.
I've grown up in a family with a highly developed social conscience.
My three siblings and I were raised in the be the change you
want to see in the world style, and it seems to have worked with
my siblings. I, however, saw the pain this attitude could cause,
and decided that it just wasn't worth it - other people could
save the world. I was going to be happy. And if that was a selfish
position - and I had the more than sneaking suspicion it was
- so be it.
When the Sept. 11th attacks happened, my world, along with every
other American's, was rocked. Terrorism and war were no longer
almost abstract problems other countries - almost abstract themselves
- had. This was in our front yard, our living room. Still, after
attending a memorial and shedding some tears for the victims
and their families, and commenting on how horrible and tragic
it was whenever the topic came up in conversation, I took the
"the best way to fight this is to continue with your life
as normally as possible" advice to heart, and got on with
After the first few days I avoided, as much as I could, all the
media attention, flipping the channel or not reading the newspaper
when the show or article had something to do with the attacks.
This avoiding-by-ignoring had been going on for almost a year
when I started reading a book called "The Rape of Nanking"
by Iris Chang. It documented the almost forgotten holocaust of
that region of China by the Japanese in 1937. I will not describe
the atrocities covered in that book. I still cannot comprehend
them well enough, but reading about the evil humans can do to
each other, something I'd avoided as best I could for so long,
weakened my resolve not to let anything in.
Nevertheless, I was keeping my mostly subconscious "I don't
have to be affected" motto intact, I thought, until late
one night my sister Claire came home from a friend's house. Both
of us being night owls, we got to talking. The conversation wound
from people who had more money and fewer responsibilities than
us, to what our responsibilities were, both in our family and
in the world. Claire took the position that, yes, maybe humans
and the world were horrible, but by just accepting that, we were
just as much to blame as everybody else. I was arguing, with
myself as much as her, that you can't change the world and trying
to would just make one more unhappy person on a planet full of
them. Even as I argued this, I was forced to recognize it wasn't
true - not really. The world has changed a lot, and just because
we still have a very, very long way to go, that doesn't mean
we should just give up. No matter how much it hurts to open up
and care enough to help, the world will never be any better unless
more of us do so.
So now I'm starting to get out there to try to do my part. Whether
I end up discovering a cure for cancer or picking up trash on
the side of the road, I will know I'm trying. And if you let
yourself try, that's a triumph in itself. Every little bit helps.
- Harmony Wade-Hak
OVYF writing intern
Getting us through it
I flew into New York City on
the Friday before Sept. 11, 2001. As the jet came in to land
at JFK, our pilot banked to give us a view of lower Manhattan,
and the two towers of the World Trade Center glinting in the
clear autumn sunlight. I remember thinking this surely symbolizes
the heartbeat of America. Apparently others were thinking the
same thing, though not with the same sense of life as I.
Although I enjoy our quiet Ojai Valley, I grew up in London and
have always needed a "big city fix" once in a while.
The trip to New York was my daughter Jenny's gift to me for my
upcoming 60th birthday, inviting me along on one of her business
trips. Over the weekend we shopped, gallery hopped, watched Venus
and Serena play each other in the finals of the U.S. Open, ate
at outrageously expensive restaurants and thoroughly enjoyed
the noise, smells and frantic pace of NYC. Monday the 10th was
hot and humid with sporadic thundery deluges and we dashed in
and out of the galleries and shops of SoHo. We saw the former
home of Cary Grant (a must on my list) and spent an hour in Dean
and DeLucca's choosing exotic spices for gifts. My feet hurt
and we stopped to buy comfy Eccos. These are the details you
remember when time stops, as it did the next day.
Jenny had some business calls to make on the morning of the 11th,
and since it was to be my last day I thought I would go downtown
on the subway to see the World Trade Center, Wall Street, etc.
I had a coffee and a bagel in a coffee shop, then realized I'd
forgotten my camera. I went back to our hotel room, and as I
opened the door, Jenny grabbed my arm and pulled me to the TV
to show me the "accident" that had just happened to
one of the towers of the World Trade Center. As we stood watching,
the second tower seemed to burst into flames, and it wasn't until
they re-ran the tape that the hideous truth dawned on us all.
Jenny and I sat hugging on the bed, talking with my husband,
Spence (barely awake in Ojai), on the phone. Then came news of
the attack on the Pentagon and the fourth airplane crash in Pennsylvania,
and chilling rumors of other planes.
We were not in danger, our hotel was as far away from the WTC
as Ojai's East End is from the Arbolada. On the street, there
was no traffic except for emergency vehicles. People were gathered
around parked cars, listening to radios echoing loudly in the
unusually quiet midtown Manhattan canyons, and there was a buzz
of anxiety. I had to be stalwart, I was the "mom" after
all. But I felt a gnawing sense of desperation about our world
that seemed to be being demolished around us.
That afternoon, I walked the five blocks to Central Park. People
were walking slower than the previous day. Strangers made eye
contact, giving a nod of recognition to fellow humans, as if
acknowledging that we'd all been touched by the evil of that
day. I stopped in St. Thomas Episcopal Cathedral and sat with
others, trying to pray. In Central Park, some people sat quietly
holding each other. Others were on cell phones, either trying
to find someone or else assuring someone that they were OK. Some
German tourists with luggage wondered aloud what they should
do, and a stranger lent them a cell phone so they could try to
find a room somewhere. When I returned to our hotel room, there
was an astonishingly poignant notice under the door: "Due
to today's tragic events, we are unable to provide turn-down
service this evening. We apologize for any inconvenience this
may cause you." Under the circumstances, my daughter and
I managed to turn down our own beds.
It was a strange and amazing atmosphere in New York for two days.
On Wednesday, everything was closed, the weather was glorious,
and people took their families to Central Park for picnics and
frisbee. The atmosphere was not festive, but quiet, rather like
an old-fashioned Sunday afternoon, before Sunday became a day
for errands, shopping and getting ready for work tomorrow. It
was as if people felt the need to be quietly with their friends
and families - connected to others. Jenny and I rented bicycles
and biked around Central Park. Only the fighter jets streaking
overhead belied the peaceful scene.
By Thursday, shops, museums and theaters re-opened, although
the airports were still closed and no rental cars were available.
It felt odd to be going to a show, but we saw Valerie Harper
in a funny show, "The Tale of the Allergist's Wife."
After the performance, Ms. Harper stepped forward and thanked
the audience for coming out tonight and being prepared to laugh.
"We will get through this!" she exclaimed to a cheering
On Saturday, after hours of phone calls, a bus ride to New Jersey,
a rental car drive to Philadelphia, then a plane to Atlanta,
we made it back to California. LAX never looked so good to me.
And Ojai. How peaceful and safe (and I must say, unreal) it seemed.
For weeks I didn't want to go out of the Ojai Valley again, even
postponing a trip to London later in September. I wept at Theater
150's production of "Human Chain" and it brought back
some of the reality. I wanted to feel it again, not wallowing
in the tragedy, but feeling connected to the world.
Has America got through this? Our world has not been "demolished,"
but a year later, we are no longer oblivious to how the rest
of the world views us. We are inextricably connected with the
world and we cannot be complacent about our role. As the world's
most powerful nation, we know we will be targeted again by those
who regard us with both envy and contempt. But the innate strength
and optimism of Americans is "getting us through" despite
all that, and as we settle back into our comfortable lives in
Ojai, we can take some pride in that.
- Linda Silver
copies of our complete 9-11 rememberance edition are available
at the OVN office, or by calling Jehf at (805) 646-1475, Ext.