Residents say not much has changed

Posted: Wednesday, September 11, 2002

The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 in New York and Washington, D.C., affected people both directly and indirectly, even as far away the Kenai Peninsula.

Several peninsula residents, having a year to reflect on their involvement in the events of and following Sept. 11, have said the day has had an impact on the nation as a whole, but that they haven't felt their own lives particularly changed by those events.

Martin Radvansky of Funny River is a Red Cross volunteer who spent three weeks, from Oct. 25 to Nov. 15, in New York City working as a family services technician. He met with people who lived near the twin towers and had their homes damaged by the destruction. He also met with people who were injured in the disaster and who worked in the trade towers and managed to escape. Radvansky's main role was to help these people receive the immediate needs of food, clothing and shelter.

A year after the event, Radvansky is still qualified to respond to disasters with the Red Cross, although he has not done so since going to New York. He is active in the Red Cross on a local level as a member of a disaster action team. As such, he has responded to several fires where families have lost their homes. He also teaches classes in disaster response in the central peninsula and Homer.

In retrospect, Radvansky is glad he had the opportunity to help Sept. 11 victims in New York, but he doesn't think his experience had a significant impact on his life. He wasn't stationed right at ground zero and the immediate sense of danger and trauma had dissipated somewhat by the time he got there, he said.

But he is still reminded of the experience.

"It comes up every once in a while," he said. "Something reminds me of it and (the memories) are not all bad or good. It's a little bit of everything. In one way, it was a really neat trip, and in another way it was tough (and) is tough."

Radvansky does think the events impacted the nation as a whole.

"People are more cautious," he said. "We don't feel as safe as we used to be. You go to the airport and notice a difference right away. Things have definitely changed."

Radvansky recommends peninsula residents get involved in the Red Cross as a way to serve their communities and to prepare for any further disasters.

Envoy Craig Fanning, stationed at the Kenai Salvation Army Church, traveled to New York for 10 days in early October to volunteer his services as a crisis counselor at ground zero.

Like Radvansky, Fanning was glad to help and doesn't feel significantly changed by his experience, although it was difficult for him.

"For me, crisis intervention is a very important part of any event such as 9-11, but it's not what I like to do. It's what I do when the need arises," he said. "A lot of guys do it for the adrenaline rush, and adrenaline makes me ill. I'm a slow-paced person, that's why I live in Alaska."

For Fanning, who has served as a grief counselor in conjunction with the Anchorage Police Department, any crisis he responds to is treated in a professional manner, and Sept. 11 was no different.

"I went to ground zero the same way I would go to any event, like a fire or car wreck," he said.

While working with the Anchorage police, Fanning said he responded to several infant deaths in a 2 1/2- month period.

"... Even as horrible as 9-11 was, walking into a home where a mother had just rolled over in the middle of the night on her baby and suffocated it, (Sept. 11) paled in comparison."

One difference between the Sept. 11 crisis and others Fanning has dealt with has been the national attention that day received, which has been a good thing for those involved.

"I'm not left to my personal thoughts and to just ponder them," he said. "One of the differences with 9-11 is it is part of our daily lives for those who went to ground zero. You get to debrief that continually, which is very healthy because debriefing a situation is very important. When you go to smaller things that are unadvertised you don't get to debrief those. That's when events tend to come back and haunt you in a crisis situation."

Fanning said he doesn't have any words of wisdom to offer people, but he does think some good came out of the tragedy.

"It was just an event that will be with us forever, and I don't think that's a bad thing," he said. "I think a lot of what makes America America came out during that time and through that event and that's always good."

Calvin Lundy, lance corporal with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, was serving aboard the USS Dubuque, an amphibious transport ship, on Sept. 11. The vessel was on a humanitarian mission delivering water to East Timor at the time but was rerouted to other duties. At one point, Lundy was possibly stationed in Kandahar, said his mother, Charmaine Lundy of Kasilof.

Since then, Lundy finished that assignment and took leave Feb. 22. He landed in Hawaii and found his mother and younger brother waiting to greet him. He also was able to make a surprise visit to his family in North Kenai for 21 days in July. Currently, Lundy is participating in combat engineer desert training in California. There is a rumor that once the training is complete, he could be shipped to Iraq, Charmaine said, but that is not known for certain.

Visiting with her son when he was on leave made him seem like the same old Calvin, but Charmaine said he has changed.

"Going overseas was a wonderful experience for him," she said. "It made him truly glad to be an American. He's been in long enough and has had enough experience that now he's responsible for men a little bit younger than he is, so he's taking that very seriously. If he worries, that's what worries him."

According to Charmaine, Calvin is planning to re-enlist in the Marines for another four years, then possibly go to college.

Denis Douglas of Soldotna took to the wilderness after Sept. 11 -- not for solitude, but for a solution.

Douglas, working with the Kenai Firefighters Association, established "Power of One: A Walk for a United America Iditathon." To raise money, Douglas walked, alone, the 1,050-mile Iditarod Trail from Anchorage to Nome in February.

"The trip went pretty good," Douglas said. "I had pretty good weather."

Pulling a sled full of supplies, Douglas walked about 30 miles a day, making the entire trip in 44 days. By collecting pledges for the walk, he raised about $2,500 for the victims and heroes of Sept. 11.

"It was a little below what I expected, but there were a lot of things going on," Douglas said.

The money went to support the Leary Firefighters Foundation Fund for New York's Bravest and the Twin Towers Orphan Fund, as well as area fire departments.

The trip was Douglas' second walk along the trail, and likely not his last.

"There's a possibility I might be doing that trip again next year. I'm thinking about it, if I come up with a good cause," he said.

Just what that cause might be, Douglas hasn't decided.

"You don't know what's going to be in the forefront next winter, maybe the war on terrorism," he said. "You don't have to look very far to find a good reason."

Tom Perry, E-4 intelligence specialist seaman, was in training in Virginia on Sept. 11. Immediately after the attacks, he was assigned to the USS Peleliu en route to the Arabian Sea. He served on that ship until May, when the ship returned to dry dock in San Diego. Since then, he has had an uneventful summer, attending training and spending time with his wife, who is expecting their first child.

"It's been very quiet, and that's been very peaceful," said Tom's mother, Linda Perry of Kasilof. "I've been very happy that he's in dry dock. ... I am never pleased when he is sent into an area that could be a war area. He handles that much better than I do."

Perry is due to ship out again at the end of October. He plans to finish his term of service, which runs through next fall, then go back to college. Being in naval intelligence, there isn't much Perry can say about his job, but Linda thinks he has changed since Sept. 11.

"He became much more serious about what his value was to the nation and has followed through in the intelligence field," she said. "... I continue to believe that there's a place for the people who serve this country and take care of it."

Sept. 11 has had an impact on the Perry family as a whole, Linda said. In addition to Tom being on active duty, Tom's older brother is a firefighter, so the loss of people in that profession in New York saddened the family. In addition, Linda's granddaughter in Nikiski had her 14th birthday Sept. 11, so it was difficult for her and the family to deal with everything that happened on what was supposed to be a happy day.

"Generally everyone has been effected," Linda said. "They realize that things like this can happen. I think we were very complacent and didn't think we were touchable. And we are. It kind of woke people up, (although) it may have been kind of a lousy way to get woke up."

Peninsula Clarion reporter Jenni Dillon contributed to this story.

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