Ten Years after 9/11, the Wounds are still Raw

A decade has passed since the events of September 11, 2001; a tragedy which shocked the whole world. A national trauma is comprised of individual tragedies which continue to cause pain many years later.

September 13, 2011 10:47

KKL_130911_A. (photo credit: KKL-JNF)

A decade has passed since the events of September 11, 2001; a tragedy which shocked the whole world.  A national trauma is comprised of individual tragedies which continue to cause pain many years later. At the powerful memorial held by KKL-JNF in the forest overlooking HaArazim Valley on the outskirts of Jerusalem, Sigal Shefi told her story. One morning, on September 11, 2001, in far away New York, a young woman lost her husband. “Hagay Shefi was a man of endless love and affection, who worked hard all his life,” she said.

Among the hundreds who had assembled were the US Ambassador to Israel KKLDaniel Shapiro, Israel Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, JNF-USA President Stanley Chesley, KKL JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler, KKL JNF Director General Yael Shealtieli, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, ambassadors and consuls from many different countries, family members of Israelis who perished in the 9/11 terror attack, Sar-El volunteers, members of the One Family Fund for families of terror victims, and senior KKL JNF personnel.

Sigal Shefi reflected on the years that had passed since she lost her husband. She spoke about Pat, an American woman who phoned her out of the blue one day to offer words of comfort. That simple phone call blossomed into a close friendship, which continues to this very day. "I hadn’t known her previously, but a precious human connection was made, which is something that helps a person carry on." Shefi said.

“We had been in touch for six months before I learnt that Pat had lost her husband, a police officer who was on duty that very day.  She had sent me a postcard from Alaska, where she was visiting on the occasion of the birth of her grandson. I asked her how their children had coped with the disaster. She said they grew up and did okay, and I felt relief.”

Sigal also added a personal thought about the perpetrators of the attacks, which left question marks suspended in the air. “I wonder about a person who wakes up one day and goes to commit suicide in such a horrible way. Did he say goodbye to his family? Did he kiss his children? Did he know he would harm so many families that seemed to be just like his family?”

“Exactly ten years ago we woke up one fine day,” said US Ambassador to Israel KKLDaniel Shapiro, who opened the moving ceremony. “The sky was blue, and we were all doing what we normally do in our daily routine. That morning, however, those regular things done by the thousands of people who were killed in the 9/11 attack, were to be their very last. Close to three thousand people lost their lives on that fateful day in September. That day, the most awful sound, beyond the explosive din of the twin towers collapsing, was the sound of the great silence. Hospitals were prepped, but very few people arrived alive. The families of the victims were left with a gaping void and a wound that will never truly heal. Before arriving in Israel to begin my post, I felt the need to visit Ground Zero. As I walked around, I could not help but look up at the vast blue space, which is now being filled with new construction. The new tower being built there is a metaphor for the firm stance of the American people.”

US Ambassador Shapiro, said that Israel, which has experienced bouts of horrific terrorism in its history, became a participant in the bereavement of the US, particularly when it became known that five of the 9/11 victims were Israeli citizens. “It is an honor for me and my colleagues to attend this 9/11 memorial ceremony here in Israel. There is no nation in the world that can understand us and assist us in recovering more than Israel. In hard times, our moral connection strengthens both nations.”

In his address, KKL JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler said that the only consolation to be gained from these dreadful events is their results, especially in the international efforts to combat radical Islam which sponsors terrorism. “Suddenly, the world understood what we had learned the hard way. The enemies of humanity must not be given another chance, and the roots of evil must be fought relentlessly.” Stenzler said that KKL JNF had decided to build a memorial in HaArazim Valley, at the entrance to Jerusalem, as part of the Jerusalem Metropolitan Park that encompasses the city with a green ring.  The site in HaArazim Valley is the largest memorial site outside the USA, commemorating the victims of the 9/11 terror attack. The memorial was made possible by the intense efforts of JNF USA and the close collaborative work with the Jerusalem Municipality.

The monument, which was designed by Eliezer Weishoff, an Israeli artist is built in KKLthe shape of a flame rising toward the sky, with its base containing debris from the ruins of the Twin Towers in New York behind glass. The memorial was built with the help of generous contributions by the Bronka Stavsky Rabin Weintraub Foundation and the Edward Blank family from New York. It symbolizes the shared values of the United States, Israel and the entire free world, on behalf of freedom and against terror and those who perpetrate it. 

Prior to the official ceremony, US Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro approached the monument, leaned his forehead against it and silently communed with this symbol of remembrance. He then went up to the dedication scroll containing a quote from Isaiah; “Nation shall not lift sword against nation and learn war no more.” Daniel Shapiro signed it and said, “We will never forget.”

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat spoke about his own personal experience on that fateful day. “I landed in New York on the eleventh of September, early in the morning, for a meeting that was cut short by the terror attack. At the end of the day, after we had seen the overwhelming devastation, we saw TV broadcasts of people in Gaza dancing in the streets with joy as New York went up in flames. That was when I understood that Islamic terrorism is not a challenge faced only by Israel but a threat to the entire world. One of the victims, Danny Levine of KKLJerusalem, found himself surrounded by terrorists as he sat on flight 11, which had departed from Boston. He got up to stop the hijackers and was apparently the first casualty of the terror attack, as he was killed in the struggle. Danny had moved to Israel with his family from Denver, Colorado, when he was a boy. He enlisted in the IDF and served in its elite unit, the General Staff Reconnaissance Unit. He later excelled as a student in the Technion and as an employee at IBM. It is not surprising that he decided to fight the terrorists and not surrender.”

JNF-USA President Stanley Chesley, attorney-at-law, was a leader in the fund raising efforts for construction of the memorial site. "If it was not for the efforts made by Efi Stenzler, and KKL-JNF,” he said, “this monument would not be here. There is no otherplace in the world where people understand the magnitude of the loss on the one hand, and the aspiration for peace on the other hand, as they do here. This memorial expresses the yearning for peace and for better days. Ten years is not a long time for the people who carry the pain every day in their hearts, so there is no special significance, in my opinion, in marking a decade. What is important, however, is that we must never forget the great loss or the terrorism itself and its perpetrators.”

Israel Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon was the last speaker. “The world KKLcame to a halt that day,” he said. "The 9/11 terror attack struck in the USA, but it was directed at the entire free world. This is extreme, radical Islam, which does not believe in coexistence, in democracy, in freedom or justice. This is the Islam that does not represent the Muslim world. Ten years later, we are still stunned by the enormity of this act of terrorism. How many worlds were destroyed that day? The people who perished lost their lives not because of something committed or omitted by the United States of America, but because of the essence of the United States of America, because of its democracy and freedom. We know the price of terrorism only too well, and we stand firmly with the United States in our shared goal to protect the fundamental values of liberty and democracy."

“The action taken by the United States to rescue the people trapped in the Israel Embassy in Cairo was another tangible expression of the firm alliance between the Unites States and Israel," said Ayalon. “Yesterday, at a time of distress, the US came to Israel’s aid. The government of Israel wishes to thank President Obama and everyone involved in the effort to bring our people home safely. We in Israel remember the demonstrations of courage and bravery made by Americans ten years ago. We recognize the greatness of the American people as expressed in the pictures and the stories that have been told from then until now, and we mourn with them and share their grief.”

President Shimon Peres, who is currently in the midst of mourning his brother’s death, sent a letter to be read at the ceremony. In it he expressed his solidarity with the American people, on his own behalf and on behalf of the people of Israel. ”We share your moments of sorrow, just as we share your fundamental values. America is an exemplary model for us. We are proud to be close friends, and we bow our heads today as America grieves.”

The ceremony was concluded by the national anthems of the US and of Israel. Afterwards, many of the ceremony participants went to the huge ring of metal plaques engraved with the names of the 2,977 victims of the 9/11 terror attack. Kneeling in front of one of the plaques were a man and a woman, copying one of the names etched in bronze by rubbing it onto a sheet of paper. The couple introduced themselves as Colonel Jeffrey Hood, Military Attaché at the US Embassy in Israel, and his wife Gretchen, who found, among the thousands of names, what they had been seeking. “We found the name of the brother of a good friend of ours, who was a firefighter and perished when the Twin Towers collapsed. We are going to send our friend the copy of his brother’s name on the program of today’s memorial ceremony,” they said, “and we are sure he is going to appreciate it.”

After a while, all that was left at the memorial were the wreaths of flowers that had been placed at the foot of the monument on behalf of the State of Israel, the United States of America, KKL-JNF, and the security and rescue services.

For Articles, comments or use please contact
Ahuva Bar-Lev
KKL-JNF – Information and Publications
Email: [email protected]
Phone: 972-2-6583354 Fax:972-2-6583493

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