Alaskans shaken by terrorist attack

Posted: Tuesday, September 11, 2001

Alaskans were shaken by the terrorist attacks that occurred some 4,000 miles away, turning to television for details and churches for comfort.

''Mostly we're just kind of wandering around talking about it,'' said Jean Tombaugh, director of the Nome Community Center. The center continued to serve meals to senior citizens and operate its food bank, but many of those at the center were glued to the television.

''Everything we do seems so trivial compared to the crisis going on back there,'' Tombaugh said. ''It's horrifying, and yet it's almost addictive. I'm of the generation that remembers World War II, and I don't like to feel so attacked without responding.''

A community prayer vigil in Nome was scheduled for Wednesday evening at St. Joseph Church, a century-old landmark. Ministers from various local churches, as well as city officials, were expected to attend the 7 p.m. vigil.

The Rev. Andrew Ekblad, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Fairbanks, scheduled a prayer vigil for Tuesday evening.

''There's just a collective sense of shock. This whole thing seems to be surreal,'' Ekblad said.

He said several people came into his church after learning of the attack.

''They were coming into the church as a place of safety and peace where maybe some sense could be made of it,'' Ekblad said.

In Juneau, at least half a dozen churches held special services. Others opened their doors for individual prayers.

At Northern Light United Church, the Rev. Greg Lindsay urged people to pray for the victims.

''My hope is we don't begin to react in a way that's going to lead to more violence, but that we can find it in our hearts to really pray for peace,'' he said.

Diocese of Juneau Bishop Michael Warfel was in Washington, D.C., for a meeting of Catholic bishops. He phoned the diocese Tuesday morning and urged people to ''pray for those who have died, as well as for those who are still suffering.

''Pray for our president and governmental leaders as they grapple with this tragic situation,'' he said. ''Pray that people will refrain from a reactionary response and not strike out in vengeance. Pray for peace.''

Anchorage activated its Emergency Operations Center and extra police and firefighters were called to duty, said Mayor George Wuerch.

''We were blessed with a team that practiced and was ready for this day,'' Wuerch said.

Juneau activated its Emergency Operations Center, a communications center located in its police station, on Tuesday but did not staff it, said Dave Palmer, Juneau city manager.

Palmer said cruise lines asked the city to cordon off the dock area with yellow tape to restrict access to the cruise ships while they are docked. Cruise ships have also been more diligent in using metal detectors and checking identification cards for passengers, Palmer said.

No additional Juneau police officers were called in, Palmer said.

''It's not business as usual, but it's not particularly unusual business right now,'' Palmer said.

It's unclear how many people were stranded in Juneau as a result of a Federal Aviation Administration grounding of all commercial flights, but Palmer said hotels estimated they were at about 50 percent capacity and so plenty of rooms were available.

Fairbanks Mayor Jim Hayes said he was in contact throughout the day with military, hospital and airport officials.

''This has affected the whole city. Our hospital's standing ready. So far, they aren't asking for blood donations,'' Hayes said.

Like many Alaskans with loved ones in New York City and Washington D.C., Hayes waited by the phone for word from his son, James, who works on Capitol Hill for Senator Ted Stevens.

''He was on his way to work when it happened,'' Hayes said. ''Our prayers go out to the ones who are waiting by the phones to hear about loved ones.''

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