Readers React

Readers from across the Washington area, the country and the world are e-mailing with their reactions to today's terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. Some of those e-mails are posted below.

Updated September 11, 2001; 6:29 PM EDT

This wasn't supposed to happen in my lifetime. I always prayed that one of these moments wouldn't happen- one of the moments where you remember exactly what you were doing when you heard the news. One of the moments where you couldn't help feeling sickness a minute later....

But can a country so filled with confusion and misguided hate come together in a time of need? These are the questions I ask myself. What can we, the old and young people, do to help our nation ensure that such a tragedy doesn't have a chance to happen again? Do people even care about helping?

I feel in my heart that I want to shout to all of the American citizens- erase any ignorance they feel about this by simply stating that now is the time for us to band together and become one. Now is the time for our differences to become strengths, our diversity to become a defensive weapon, and for our country to hold on strongly to what is ours. Other people do it everyday, and now it's our turn. Our safety has been threatened. Although I haven't been on this Earth as long as many, I realize that we could be facing another fight for our freedom. We are Americans, and that's what being an American is all about.
Erin Lape
Oxford, Michigan

When Pearl Harbor was attacked, Admiral Isoroku Yamamota of Japan said of America, "I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.The same words echo true now. Our collective head has been jarringly yanked out of the sand, and we will stand together as a nation to protect our families and way of life, which will continue to be the light of the free world. We will not be intimidated by inhumane people President Bush correctly calls "faceless cowards."
Martha Lorenz
Tallahassee, Va.

I have never felt so helpless in my life. I am at college at the University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill, about 300 miles away, while my father, friends, and friends parents were in grave peril in D.C. People down here have no idea the reprecussions of an attack on Washington for those who live in the metro area like myself. It is so hard to put into words, and I find myself unable to type any more because my hands can not stop shaking.

My parents are suppose to come down for parent's weekend on Friday, but I fear that I will instead be forced to drive up home (in Prince William County) for funerals of fallen friends and family. Please pray.
John Frank
Chapel Hill, N.C.

As I am sitting here stunned in my office, miles away from any of the catastrophe that has arisen today, I search for anything that I can take away as a glimmer of hope that we can pull together as a nation and overcome even this worst of attacks. The one thing that comforts me is that in the middle of this all, amid the horrible reports of casualties which are more than we ever thought we would have to bear on the national conscience, is the thought that right now, at this very second, there are thousands if not tens of thousands of Americans (and non-Americans) who are giving every piece of their being, and in doing so risking their own lives in order to rescue and console those who affected by this catastrophie, and that, amidst all of this horror, makes me proud to be living in the greatest country in the world. Thank you for your time.
Andrew Riegel
Schenectady, N.Y.

The sick feeling in the pit of my stomach seemed deeper with every new report. I felt like canceling my 11 o'clock class, but decided that wasn't a good idea; the topic of the day was "international security." My students learned a lot today; I could feel their innocence giving way to anger and frustration as we talked . . . .

Vladimir Wozniuk
Professor of Government, Western New England College

I am still in shock as I watch the news. I was at work in Old Town Alexandria when all this unfolded. When I heard about the Pentagon, I immediately ran up to the roof and couldn't believe what I saw in front of my eyes. I thought I was in some movie or nightmare. I never imagined that something like this could happen so close to home and of this magnitude. I was overwhelmed with a lot of different emotions: anger, sadness. Where did we fail?. I thought we had great security, especially at the Pentagon. I am scared of what is still to come because I am sure this is only the beginning.

Ericka White

A colleague here in Portland called at 6:30 a.m. to update me on some work we needed to get done and mentioned the World Trade Center bombing. As my husband turned on the TV the Pentagon had just been hit. I stood there in the middle of the living room, watching the exact place where my most beloved ones were, being bombed and not knowing how much more was to happen. I was 3,000 miles away and totally helpless. I could not reach anyone on phone or cell phone. One of the hardest moments came when they announced one of the planes that had crashed into the Towers had been L.A. bound from Dulles. My best friend was moving to L.A. this week and flying out either today, Wednesday or Thursday. While it blessfully turned out she was not on the flight, it added to my complete helplessness. My sister and her husband are still waiting to hear of news of friends working on Wall Street and near the Towers. We are all intimately connected to this day.

Katharine Delo Gregg
Portland, Ore.

I was working downtown when I heard something go boom and the earth shook. I thought at first it was another manhole cover or gas pipe explosion.

My foreman came to me and said, "Come on. Let's gather up all of our tools and materials and get the heck out of D.C. while we can, because they just bombed the World Trade Center and The Pentagon."

I said, "You've got to be kidding."

I looked up and saw a black and gray cloud cover the sky and heard sirens, so I knew what the explosion was then. My foreman said we have to remain calm and ... just not panic. We did exactly as he said and we made our way home with ease.

I turned on the TV and saw the explosion and news and I began to cry for the victims and families of those working in the buildings. I did the only thing I know how to do and that was pray.

I ask every person to do the same. Now is the time for all of us to come together and help one another to overcome this tragic loss. I pray for the Palestineians who were dancing and handing out candy and making fun of our misfortune. God help them when we do retaliate, because I am sure innocent people on their side will die, too. Then they will know the pain we feel if they have a heart.

Diana Lynn Bell
Lusby, Md.

I'm a regular guy from Sweden following the terrible acts against people in America, and the first thing going through my mind when I say the news was:

All hell's breaking loose. Is this the beginning of World War III? Hope President Bush's middle name isn't Warlord and that American pursuit of perpetrators are done in an orderly fashion, not just running away and bombing things on a hunch.

Since it is an act, not only against America and Americans, but also against western society and way of life, the "rest of the west" should be part of the investigation... It is a criminal act, and The Criminal should be judged by an independent court. We live in a global world and (though I'm not all that pleased with it) America's well-being affects the rest of us......

Finally I would like to all the victims and relatives to the victims that I share their grief (I will hopefully never know how it feels) and my thoughts are with them....

Pontus Askbrink

I live in California and have no relatives in the East coast, yet I found myself very emotional today. I am in disbelief and cannot describe the fear and sadness that I feel for all of us today. I was born in Peru, but raised here in America. I have always felt safe and smiled at the American flag wherever I saw it, for me it has always been a symbol of freedom, democracy and safety. I do not get on a plane unless it is an "American airline"; the flag means the world to me since it has represented those things that we hold dear. I have never believed in war. I have always felt that the women and children always lose and someone, whether Iraqi, Bosnian, American, or Vietnamese, will feel hatred and pain. I don't wish that on anyone. What else is left? I have no answer on how to punish the individuals or group who brought anger, sadness, and pain to all of us. Where do we start? I only wish to extend my shoulder and hand to all those Americans who are in desperation and fear. I will be calm for them... or try to be.

Carol Pizarro
Los Angeles

I was totally thrown off by the whole thing. I came out of my early morning class here at Valparaiso University to see that both World Trade Center buildings and the Pentagon had been attacked. This scared me. As a graduate of Wakefield High School (Arlington) the first thing I thought of was my parents and all of the parents of my friends that work at the Pentagon. I had always thought that living near the capital of the United States was a certain risk, but nothing has ever happened in my life. I'm just happy that the hit to the Pentagon wasn't as serious as it was in New York, but this isn't something we can just sit back and watch. I'm happy that President Bush is working on this and that we will find out what happened and protect ourselves. We can't be afraid to go on airplanes or even go to work because we are under the thumb of some terrorist organization. I'm an American. I am free.

Stephen DeMik

While I was playing basketball next to the Eiffel Tower a cohort of people ran on the court to inform everyone what happened to New York and Washington. The reactions were of disbelief and shaken by the fact that the such symbolic monuments were now nonexistent. However, there were many who believed that the US was not efficiently prepared for such terrorists acts and should have prevented such hijacks of the planes. The overall opinion now is that Europe is deeply saddened and is sharing the heart-ache of those who have lost their lives and the families victims. We can not let this happen again. The U.S. government must unequivocally establish a dialogue with those perpetrators to prevent this from ever happing again. How do we prevent this from happening again?

Michelin Monique

Hold your babies tight tonight,
draw your family near.
The face of God has not turned away,
though the face we see is fear.
Tell our children not to despair,
it is time to hit our knees.
There is no separation of God and state,
in tragedy such as these.
Those responsible will surely pay,
not in a week, or day.
But eternally their actions shall judge them,
Oh Lord in Heaven We pray.
So hold your babies tight tonight,
and draw your loved ones near.
And remember to give a special prayer,
for the lives lost whom we hold dear.

Domenic Pace

How was I affected by today's story? I was physically sick by what I saw. I am not a violent person but I hope that when those responsible are found they are dealt with in the same manner, NOT like the Lockerbie 2! I am Scottish but have family in Virginia and Pennsylvania. I hope that America makes examples of those responsible.

How long have we as decent respectable citizens got to put up with pathetic cowards like those who have done this to our society. It's time for an eye for an eye when it comes to acts of terrorism. No cushy time in prison ... hand these guys over to the families, the real victims of these crimes.

I think the people who did this are pathetic cowards who cannot stand up in front of the American/British people and democratically put their story to the government.

Elizabeth Laura Saunders
Glasgow, Scotland

Our country experienced an earthquake of identity today, an earthquake that shook the souls of people all over our land. We watch, from different couches, different offices, and different hours, the chaos and trembling before us. We watch buildings crumble, faces scream, dust bury and we wonder how to respond, how to receive, how to understand.

What, as Americans, as children, as parents, as students, as victims, are we to do from this day forth? How do we rise and continue the day, how do we speak when comforting one who has lost, one who has crumbled inside, how do we sit in a classroom or sit in traffic and not be affected, not be outraged? How do we face the details, the trivial details that comprise routine, and constitute a day and believe they are worth something? We do. We must. We are America, and we must not be indifferent...

Let us not forget each other and be present to what we must do. Each and every day, in small and amazing ways we can change this place -

Audrey Wood

© 2001 The Washington Post Company