To have lived at the start of all this--to have watched the sudden, thudding impact of those doomed planes or the impossible crumble of the world's most potent symbols of prosperity and power--is to understand on a visceral level that American life has changed, perhaps forever. True, with clenched jaws and admirable faith in the future, we all got back to work. We carried on with the business of America while beginning the grim work of recovery and retribution. But during recent weeks, the collateral damage from that first strike has spread like ripples in a pond, changing the course of lives in unexpected places and ways. To follow the ripples from Sept. 11, 2001, as we did in gathering these stories from around the country, is to understand first that time can heal and life goes on. But following them also shows that, from the moment terror first struck, no one and nothing escaped unscathed.
--Martin J. Smith
Miss America's Hard Reign
It wasn't supposed to be this way.
During her first week as the newly crowned Miss America, Katie Harman toured the rubble tomb that holds more than 5,000 bodies, cried openly with New York City firefighters and visited makeshift memorials for the missing and dead. "It has forever changed me, not only in the role of Miss America, but the way I personally view what has happened," says Harman, who, as Miss Oregon, won the national pageant.
During the competition, Harman said she would dedicate her reign to supporting terminally ill breast cancer patients if she won the title. But since her visit to ground zero, she has recognized the broader role she'll have to play in the coming year. "Before, Miss America was seen as a pageant figure, as a bathing beauty," Harman says. "[But] because she is an American icon, people view her as a symbol of freedom and what we stand for. It's up to me to provide that leadership and rally their spirit and hope to go on."
Wearing blue sweats and a hard hat, the 21-year-old communications major at Portland State University toured the devastated World Trade Center buildings in the rain just three days after the pageant. Stopping to offer hugs, kisses and encouragement to rescue workers and firefighters, she posed for photos, signed T-shirts, helmets and even dollar bills with "God Bless You." And she'll never forget the looks on the faces of those she met.
"I have never seen that look before, this mix of despair and hope at the same time," says Harman. "There was this great spirit in the midst of tragedy."
Harman says her work with women with terminal breast cancer prepared her for her expanded role. Death is "something I'm very familiar with, which is wonderful because I can take that information to the American public and say, 'It's OK to grieve and mourn,' and talk about how we can cope." Harman also hopes to meet with families of the victims "to bring a message of hope: There can be life in death."
Still, Harman has had to wrestle with private fears. In the coming year, she'll travel an average of 20,000 miles a month. "Obviously, I have had to look past those personal fears and trust [that] my life is in God's hands."
Testing Press Freedom
He drew a typical cartoon, a small panel on an Op-Ed page at a student-run newspaper on a university campus. It was designed to spark discussion, not a demonstration. But now that the protesters have dispersed at UC Berkeley, the nasty letters subsided and the name-calling (Racist!) lowered in volume, it is Darrin Bell who is rethinking the political cartoon he submitted a week after the attacks.
He is thinking about art and comedy and pain, and how it is possible to incorporate tragedy into a form of communication that makes people laugh while they're thinking. He is wondering how a campus that has seen his editorial cartoons for nearly a decade--that knows he is an African American and a loud-mouthed leftist on issues surrounding race--could have misinterpreted his work so badly.
If a cartoonist ignores Sept. 11, "it's like drawing cartoons about office politics on the Titanic," says Bell, 26. But being topical in a place like Berkeley got Bell 800 e-mails and a stream of invectives. (Racist!)
The cartoon is of two men with beards, turbans and long robes. They are standing in the hand of the devil with a flight manual at their feet. They think they are in heaven, in keeping with a belief held by some Islamic fundamentalists that martyrs shall be rewarded. They are actually in hell. "We made it to paradise!" one terrorist crows. "Now we will meet Allah, and be fed grapes, and be serviced by 70 virgin women."