Quiet services across Alaska honor victims of Sept. 11 terrorist attacks

Posted: Thursday, September 12, 2002

ANCHORAGE -- Alaskans marked Sept. 11 with quiet remembrances of heroes lost and preparations for possible follow-up attacks that never came.

Federal military installations remained on a higher than normal alert but reported no unusual activity. Activity also was routine for Alaska State Troopers, the trans-Alaska pipeline, the Coast Guard and airports.

Instead, low-key ceremonies were the order of the day to remember victims and survivors of America's worst terror attack.

Outside the entrance to Denali National Park, in a 6 a.m. ceremony, employees of Denali Bluffs Hotel and Grande Denali Lodge unveiled a 42-foot Nenana spruce flagpole as a monument to the victims, survivors and heroes of the terrorist attacks.

Michael Wheaton, executive chef at the resort, said the monument was conceived as a way for employees to mark the tragedy with something tangible. Employees donated four planters at the base and Nenana Lumber Co. contributed the spruce pole. The monument overlooks the Alaska Range and the Nenana River. Wheaton said about 100 guests and employees attended.

''It's a nice little place for people to go and sit and remember,'' Wheaton said.

In Alaska's capital, the Juneau Glacier Valley Rotary Club dedicated a Sept. 11 memorial at Riverside Rotary Park, a flagpole on a base of Pennsylvania black marble. Rotary Club President Max Mertz estimated that more than 500 people attended.

The flagpole base is a broken pentagon. Two of the five sides are partly missing to represent the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. Each side is 4 feet long, to represent the four lost jet airliners. Flowers to be planted within the pentagon symbolize the rebirth of patriotism, Mertz said.

The ceremony also recognized Juneau Police Department Sgt. Ben Coronell as the community's first Rotary Police Officer of the year.

''The whole point of the thing is to bring out the positive things police do,'' Mertz said.

In Ketchikan, more than 40 workers at Ketchikan General Hospital gathered in a circle, then sprinkled forget-me-not seed in grass surrounding the flagpole near the hospital's main entrance.

At the urging of employees, the hospital erected the flag pole after Sept. 11 last year in a green area within a circular driveway. Red, white and blue spring bulbs will be added to the area, said community relations specialist Kate Berntson.

In Homer, the Kenai Peninsula Community Chorus, the Homer High School Choral Program and the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra performed the Mozart Requiem, part of a coordinated global presentation of the piece. More than 180 groups in 26 countries performed Mozart's final work. The concerts began at 8:46 a.m. in each time zone, the East Coast time of the first attack. Performers wore badges bearing the name of attack victims.

In Anchorage, Mayor George Wuerch led a brief morning memorial with about 100 municipal employees at a downtown fire station. A moment of silence was broken when Fire Capt. Jeff Dobson clanged a bell in four sets of five rings to honor firefighters killed in rescue attempts at the World Trade Center.

Late Wednesday morning, Anchorage firefighters, police and bagpipe players walked several downtown blocks to Town Square for an interdenominational prayer ceremony. Hundreds packed the outdoor square despite rain.

Ministers urged the crowd to be mindful of good that emerged from the tragedy. They noted renewed spiritual faith and true heroism.

''We've returned to the true definition of heroes, as defined by Jesus Christ,'' said Pastor Steve Holsinger of Faith Christian Community. ''He said that greater love has no man than this, that he will lay down his life for a friend. Laying down your life for strangers must be greater yet.''

Four F-15 jets from Elmendorf Air Force Base 19th Fighter Squadron at noon flew over the Anchorage town square a thousand feet off the ground at 360 knots, or about 415 mph. In the evening, a C-130 Hercules from Elemendorf's 517th Airlift Squadron was to fly over Eagle River's town square, where a candlelight memorial ceremony was scheduled.

At Eielson Air Force Base south of Fairbanks, junior ROTC cadets from the base high school led a base commemorative retreat. A-10 jets from the 355th Fighter Squadron flew in a ''missing man'' formation afterward.

In the afternoon, Fairbanksans attended a memorial service at Hering Auditorium and later in the evening a Light-A-Candle for Hope and Healing ceremony along the Chena Riverbank.

University of Alaska President Mark Hamilton spoke to a large audience gathered in the auditorium.

''This is the year we replaced towers of glass with towering strength, and towering endurance... This was a year of growing for America,'' he said.

Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. spokesman Mike Heatwole said all was quiet along the trans-Alaska pipeline, where security remained at a heightened state of alert. About 30 Alyeska employees volunteered to build a playground in Fairbanks and spruce up a Salvation Army building in Anchorage as part of United Way Day of Caring activities.

Throughout the day, national and state flags flew at half staff. Gov. Tony Knowles, who attended ceremonies in Anchorage, called on Alaskans to observe a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m. He declared Sept. 11 as Patriot Day.


EDITOR'S NOTE: AP writer Rachel D'Oro contributed to this report.

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