(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 Daniel 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 Daniel 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.”