- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 16, 2001

Everything changed Tuesday, we are reminded constantly. For five days, we have pondered with new urgency what it means to be an American.
"It is said that adversity introduces us to ourselves. This is true of a nation as well," President Bush said Friday during the National Day of Prayer and Remembrance. "Today, we feel what Franklin D. Roosevelt called the warm courage of national unity.
"Our unity is a kinship of grief," the president added, "and a steadfast resolve to prevail against our enemies."
Across the country and around the world, ordinary U.S. citizens — faced with unspeakable evil committed by an unseen enemy — were moved to think and act with determination and defiance. Most of us are not heroes, just everyday Americans. Here are nine more of our stories.


Chris Ryan: 'Ready to rumble'
An American flag flutters in the morning breeze at Chris Ryan's home.
He raises Old Glory each morning and retires her each evening "to remember my dad in Heaven," says this lifelong resident of the Forest Glen section of Silver Spring.
Although Mr. Ryan, 38, always has considered himself to be patriotic, on this particular Wednesday — nearly 24 hours after the United States came under terrorist attack — he finds a more profound significance in the nation's flag.
"This family, we have never laid back, never laid down," Mr. Ryan says, his voice rising as he tries to make sense of what has befallen the nation.
In his living room, he pulls papers from a manila envelope to show a visitor where his father, World War II veteran Francis John Ryan, is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. He reflects on loved ones who served this country: his father, an uncle and another brother, Lenny, all were Marines.
He senses war is imminent, and he thinks it is just.
His brother, Lenny, retired from the military after 23 years and lives near Camp Pendleton in Vista, Calif. Now he's itching to get back to business.
"My brother said to me: 'This country needs to step up to the plate and not take any more nonsense from terrorists like bin Laden.'
"He said, 'If it were up to me, I'd be coming across the Persian Gulf like Grant tearing through Richmond, with my Marine Corps sword drawn and taking them all down.'
"My brother says the Marines are ready to rumble."
Just the day before, Chris Ryan was less gung ho. A friend, paralegal Monique Hunt, worked in the World Trade Center. He was frantic for word she had survived.
All day, Mr. Ryan, who owns his own lawn service, kept an ear to the radio. He took breaks from mowing, edging and trimming to listen to updates.
"I didn't get much work done. I thought that she had probably been killed."
By 6 p.m., good news arrived by phone: Miss Hunt was running late for work Tuesday after walking her dog in her Greenwich Village neighborhood. Because of her tardiness, she was spared.
"She was in a complete state of shock," Mr. Ryan says. "She was completely grateful to be alive. She was emotional, confused and angry. She has people who have died there."
Mr. Ryan offered his friend a basement apartment in his home, urging her to relocate and start life anew in the Washington area. In the meantime, he is bracing for war.
A plaque on his office wall reads: "To those who have fought for it, the taste of life and freedom have a flavor that the protected will never know."
He shows off a picture of Uncle Bernard, who served on Iwo Jima. Another of brother Lenny, on duty during Desert Storm. He pulls out Marine T-shirts, a recent gift from Lenny. He says he'll wear them soon, with immense pride.

Leah Geach: 'This is our time'
Leah Geach, 24, first wet her whistle on Washington politics two years ago by interning with Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican. She then returned to Arizona State University to complete a degree in political science.
A few months ago, Miss Geach came back to the District, eager to get involved in the nation's business and excited to live in its political nerve center. Tuesday's attacks made her even more supportive of her government.
"This is the worst thing that has happened to me, absolutely," the Arlington resident says. "It's a sad day for America.
"But I think it's important now for all of us to come together and to support the president and our Congress. I am very proud of President Bush and his leadership through these dark times."
Miss Geach, who works in public relations for the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, was among thousands who turned out Wednesday night for a candlelight vigil at the Reflecting Pool on the Mall. There, she and roommate Claire Rizzo, 36, held a U.S. flag between them to honor their hurting nation.
"We thought this was something we should do together to get some sort of resolve on the situation," Miss Geach says. "I've been in tears every time I see those firefighters raise the flag. When they did it at the Pentagon, it was so moving."
Miss Geach says she feels safe. Her mother wants "to come and get me," she says, but her father, an Army veteran, is more "sensible."
Her generation has been accused of inaction and disaffection, but Miss Geach says she always has been involved in politics. She is angered by televised footage of Palestinians and others dancing in the streets. In America, she says, we do not dance at the suffering of others abroad.
She is ready for action — for war.
"I do not fear it," Miss Geach says. "I think it is necessary, and I encourage it. I think this is our time and President Bush's time to send a very strong message. I know lives are at stake, but I think that there could be a great many more lives lost if they don't take action."

James Byrne: 'It was surreal'
Bond broker James Byrne was in his Wall Street area office at 7 a.m., watching CNBC and preparing for a "normal" day. Within two hours, he and co-workers looked on in disbelief as one airplane and then another rammed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center only blocks away.
The second crash rocked his building. Mr. Byrne, 33, knew this was no accident. From a 12th-floor window of his firm, Tullett and Tokyo Liberty, he gazed out at the carnage with helpless amazement.
"It looked like a ticker-tape parade, but with smoke and debris," Mr. Byrne recalls. "It was surreal."
But there was little time to take it in. After calling his wife, Elizabeth, and a few clients, he quickly left the building with others. They walked and walked, joining a dazed throng staggering across the Brooklyn Bridge.
"I wanted to get across the bridge as fast as possible," Mr. Byrne says. "I have a newborn. I was going to walk home if I had to."
Somewhere along the way, a friend drove by and offered Mr. Byrne and a colleague a ride home — about 20 miles away on Long Island. As the trio sped away, listening nervously to the news on the radio, a reporter announced the collapse of the second tower.
Mr. Byrne felt the tears coming on hard. Inside those towers were his friends, his competitors. And even now, it is not clear who among them survived.
Home at last, "emotionally drained," he gratefully kissed his wife and looked for Jack, his 11-week-old son. The next morning at 8:30, Mr. Byrne, a Catholic, was on his knees praying at Mass.
But Mr. Byrne's sadness will not diminish soon. He has worked in Manhattan for 10 years in a macho business that fosters a deep camaraderie among brokers, who build lucrative careers moving from shop to shop. He estimates that as many as 90 percent of fellow residents of Rockville Centre work in the financial district.
"Slowly, every hour, you hear about someone you know," he says of the mounting death toll.
Still, his heart is bursting with pride for a city — his city — that rallied in the face of tragedy.
"The response of people, they were just incredible," Mr. Byrne says of the lightening-quick organization of police, fire and rescue workers as well as volunteers. "The people of the New York area really came and answered the bell."

Josh Gipe: 'I'm doing something'
Josh Gipe attended Georgia State University for two years before dropping out and taking a job at Target as a department manager. He wanted to go back to school, finish his degree. And he wanted to do something meaningful with his life.
The military appealed to Mr. Gipe, but the Atlanta resident wasn't sure. He visited the recruiter Monday and pondered his future.
Then came Tuesday. And suddenly, things seemed much clearer.
"I never had these feelings before," says Mr. Gipe, 24. "I was never much of a patriot. But I can now say that I am willing to pay the ultimate price for freedom."
On Wednesday, he signed up with the Army Reserve. He'll meet his unit later this month and head off to basic training in January. He may fear battle, Mr. Gipe says, but he is more than ready to defend his nation.
"When someone attacks your very freedom, every ounce in my body wants to bring those people to justice," he says.
His father, John Gipe of Snellsville, Ga., was surprised by the decision. But he says that when his son makes up his mind, he follows through.
Father and son were working together on a construction job Tuesday and stopped to listen to the radio as news of the attacks broke. They went home and watched television late into the evening.
"Josh was quiet, and he didn't say much," John Gipe says.
The younger man rotated through a kaleidoscope of emotions — from disbelief to horror to sorrow and then anger.
"I talked to my sisters and my mother. They are all scared. But they are also proud of me for coming out and saying what I've said instead of sitting at home and talking about how freedom should be protected.
"I'm actually doing something."
Mr. Gipe encourages others to consider doing the same.
"For the perpetrators of this attack, what came to my mind was that these people need to be eliminated. They should be off the face of the planet."

Tom Smith: 'Our back yard'
Tom Smith, a civilian employee of the Department of Defense for more than 20 years, was driving through Washington from his offices near Baltimore. He had a morning meeting near the Pentagon.
Traveling with him in the government car was a new employee. Instead of listening to news radio, as is his routine, Mr. Smith chatted with her as they sped along Interstate 395, the sun shining brightly, the skies peaceful and blue.
He drove past the Jefferson Memorial and around the tree line, opening a clear view across the Potomac River from the 14th Street Bridge, where he paused to point out the Pentagon. Mr. Smith, 43, commented on the beautiful day.
By then, the smoke was rising.
"My first reaction was, 'What was that?" he says.
He quickly turned on the radio.
"You can imagine my horror. I've got a lot of friends who work at that facility. I thank God I didn't drive six seconds faster. Had I have driven faster, I would have seen the crash."
Mr. Smith watched as buildings were evacuated and workers ran along Jefferson Davis Highway.
Tom Smith is not his real name. Because of the nature of his work, he did not want it used in this article out of concern for his family's safety.
"I didn't fully rationalize that some people, some country, some anything, would be bold enough to do this to our country," Mr. Smith says of his initial reaction.
He drove on to the Hilton Hotel in Crystal City for his meeting. He waited in line to call home from a pay phone, dialing at least a dozen times in a desperate attempt to let his wife know he was OK.
"I told her I was going downtown, and 99 percent of the time I go to the Pentagon," he says, pausing to quell the emotion that strains to suffocate his voice.
Finally, he reached his office and asked someone there to call his home, then headed back himself.
The news reached his 14-year-old daughter at school. "She called my wife in tears," Mr. Smith says. When he arrived home, he assured two more of his five children, ages 3 and 6, that it was not Dad's office that was blown up.
Mr. Smith, like other parents, worries that his children's trust in human nature forever was altered or destroyed by a cowardly act of violence. And now, he says, sadness and shock are giving way to anger.
Americans, he thinks, take their freedoms for granted. And the attacks against civilians, not only because of television coverage but because they occurred "in our back yard," overshadow Pearl Harbor.
"Everyday, where I live, we [usually] have planes flying over," says Mr. Smith, whose house is near Baltimore-Washington International Airport. "It's odd now, because we don't. When I do hear one, the first thing I do is run outside and make sure it's one of ours."

Libby Case: 'I tried to explain'
A colleague rushed into Libby Case's classroom in tiny Portland, Ark., and told her to turn on the television.
Mrs. Case, Portland Elementary School's only first-grade teacher, interrupted her lesson. Flicking on the television, she got an astounding visual jolt.
It was hard enough to grasp as an adult. But, she quickly realized, there was a greater issue. She struggled to compose herself as 20 tiny faces watched with rapt attention.
"I turned around and they were all mesmerized," Mrs. Case says. "I thought I better explain it to them, what they were looking at."
Mrs. Case, 30 and an eight-year classroom veteran, made mental notes of what to say. How could she explain this, the ultimate lesson, so they would understand? And cope?
"They were real confused about why the pilot flew into the World Trade Center. One boy raised his hand and said to me about the pilot: 'Was he not looking where he was going?'
"I tried to explain that some people are just very, very mean and they don't care about themselves or other people," Mrs. Case says. "You don't know how deep to go with them because you don't know what they understand."
Another boy piped up that he'd seen a program on the Discovery Channel about the World Trade Center. He shared his knowledge with the class.
Mrs. Case told them about the "controlling behavior" of the hijackers and assured them the airline pilots were not at fault. When she brought up punishment, some said jail would be enough for the terrorists responsible.
"I don't think they realize how severe this is," she says. "They seemed more confused than scared or upset, and I told them to watch the news at home and talk to their parents about it."
To her surprise, the class came back the next day wanting to talk more. If they were diligent with their math, one asked, could they turn on the television?
Mrs. Case, who has a 4-year-old son, is considering allowing her pupils to write or do artwork to express their feelings. She sees it as a bountiful teachable moment, but one that must be handled with great care.
"At first, I had no plans of going into this with them, but they are really a smart bunch," she says. "I felt like I wanted to bring it to their attention now, because it is something that will make the history books. They can say, 'I remember when.' "

Lee Cobb: 'That was my release'
Lee Cobb, a master's student in music at the University of Florida, was on campus when he heard. He rushed to his nearby home to turn on the television and see for himself.
"I'd been to the top of the World Trade Center when I was 20," says Mr. Cobb, 37. "I knew how massive those buildings were. When they said they'd collapsed, I simply didn't believe them."
On his answering machine, a message from a friend waited: "I hope you know how to play the national anthem."
Mr. Cobb headed back to campus. He climbed the 12 stories of the university's landmark Century Tower and sat down at the carillon, an instrument with a set of 37 tuned bells sounded by hammers that are controlled by a keyboard.
University officials had canceled classes. Outside, near the tower, students lined up at two bloodmobiles. As a soft rain fell on moss-covered oaks, Mr. Cobb began to play. He started with "The Star-Spangled Banner" and "America, the Beautiful," then continued with an assortment of spiritual and folk tunes.
"I played for two hours straight," Mr. Cobb says. "I cried all the way through it."
The music carried two to three miles, soothing residents of the dorms and elsewhere in Gainesville as they took in the horror and drama of grisly events.
"I felt it important to play music from many different traditions, because that is what America is," says Mr. Cobb, a Presbyterian who came to appreciate music as a boy in church. "We're not one tradition, but many. I played some Jewish melodies, some Protestant hymns. I only regretted that I did not have any Islamic tunes."
Mr. Cobb performed anonymously inside the red-brick tower, but word of his identity reached grateful fellow students. A church organist before beginning his master's program last month, he took up the carillon five years ago as an undergraduate at Indiana University in Bloomington.
"The carillon is a very physical instrument. You can really just bang on those bells," says Mr. Cobb, who was asked to do encores over several days. "That was my release, to make this enormous, thunderous sound. I was hoping I could stir up patriotism in those who would hear me."

Raul Armengol: 'A good place to pray'
Dr. Raul Armengol was doing paperwork in his office at the Inova Emergency Care Center in Springfield when the first news came over the television in the waiting room. Three victims of the Pentagon crash, none seriously injured, eventually were brought to the satellite facility affiliated with Inova Fairfax Hospital.
Dr. Armengol, 46, treated one with "blast injuries," including burns, and another with a minor cut. The third was a pregnant woman suffering from smoke inhalation who started having contractions. She was sent to the hospital.
The slaughter, occurring "for no good reason other than someone else's insanity," unsettled Dr. Armengol.
"We see death every day," says the native of Cuba, a father of five who came to the United States in 1962 and has been a physician for 20 years. "But when you reflect that a lot of people lost their lives in a quick instance, you start to realize how fragile life is."
The next day, his day off, Dr. Armengol sought to decompress by hopping on his motorcycle, a Honda Shadow 1100. He roared away from his Falls Church home and before he knew it, was rolling in the direction of the Pentagon.
"I didn't really set off to go there," he says. "Somehow, I just found myself headed over there. Something just drew me there."
He parked in a lot at the Navy Annex, on a hill overlooking the Pentagon. He surveyed the damage, calling it a moment of profound sadness experienced in quiet from afar.
"I just wanted to witness it," he says. "It's something that we should never forget.
"We saw the same picture on TV. But there was an eerie sense actually being there where all the fatalities occurred. It seemed like a good place to pray."

Jim Clifford: 'A little national pride'
Darnestown, Md., resident Jim Clifford was managing his own family crisis when terrorists created a huge one for the nation.
As the horror rained down in New York and Washington, Mr. Clifford sat vigil at the hospital bedside of his son, Barry, 17. The senior at Germantown's Northwest High School was diagnosed with spinal meningitis after falling ill at a Boy Scouts meeting.
But Mr. Clifford, 49, paused Wednesday morning on the way to the hospital to do his part to boost national spirits. By 7 a.m., he had posted 60 American flags all over Darnestown in northwestern Montgomery County.
"I think Darnestown is a pretty patriotic town," says Mr. Clifford, who practices law in Gaithersburg and graduated from George Mason University's law school. "When this tragedy happened, there was a feeling in the community that we should put the flags up."
The local civic association purchased the flags two years ago, and local Boy Scouts helped mount the brackets that hold the banners.
Mr. Clifford, a Scout leader, stores the flags in his barn. He usually takes them out on appropriate holidays, hauling them from location to location in his truck. They fly mostly along Route 28 and a few side roads.
"I think its therapeutic," Mr. Clifford says over a cellular phone from the hospital where his son's condition has improved. "Most people feel like there's nothing they can do. This is something they can do.
"I had a lot of people beeping at me and waving as I put them up," he says. "It was clear that everybody here was sympathetic to showing a little national pride right now."

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