Terror attacks resonate with many in South Korea
September 13, 2003
YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — Inside the scrapbook is a shaky, handwritten letter from Kris Timmes and a picture of her 18-month-old daughter, Sydney, whose father, Scott, was killed in the World Trade Center attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
A letter from Ivy Moreno is next to a handwritten flier desperately seeking information about her daughter, Yvette, who worked in the towers and was missing after the attacks. Opposite the flier is a prayer card from Yvette’s funeral.
A few pages over is a note from Edward Kassakian. The former first lieutenant with 1/9 Infantry on the DMZ now is president of Carr Futures, which lost 69 employees in the attacks.
And there is a simple black envelope; stuffed within is a black and white photograph of the World Trade Center on black card stock.
Two years later, with the United States at war on so many fronts, do the Sept. 11 events still have the resonance they did 24 months ago? At Seoul American High School on Yongsan Garrison, as in so many places, the answer is yes — and no.
“Every generation has that moment when they will remember exactly where they were and what they doing,” said Jaimee Watson, a senior who helped organize a Thursday memorial at the school to mark the second anniversary of the attacks. “Sept. 11 is that moment for our generation.”
Even so, she and other students said, the moment’s immediacy has dulled some.
“I think it’s less than it was last year, but people still remember how they felt that day,” she said.
For Yongsan students, the scrapbook serves as a potent reminder. Last year, students organized a walkathon around the base, raising some $20,000 for various Sept. 11 funds. Each student on the nine-mile walk carried photographs of two or three victims of the attacks, then wrote letters to the victims’ families.
Inside the scrapbook are the responses to those letters. Even two years later, the families’ anguish is evident.
“Most people here still have strong feelings about what happened,” said Leo Niewierowski, a senior.
But many students and community members said Thursday was a day like any other. In the school’s main lobby, a video montage of images from Sept. 11 played over and over on a large slide screen.
Though the most shocking photographs — such as the fireball as the second airliner slammed into the towers — caused students to stop and stare, most of the rest were barely noticed as students rushed by on the way to classes.
Outside the school, Thursday was noted more for Chusok, the traditional Korean holiday comparable to American Thanksgiving.
“It’s kind of eerie, kind of like a ghost town,” said Pfc. Edward Charles, as he enjoyed a long lunch. “I guess it’s appropriate in a way. There’s no cars on the streets, which is rare for Seoul, so it gives the place a spooky feeling.”
Almost all of the Korean base employees had the day off and most exchange services and shops were closed.
Later Thursday afternoon, the military held a memorial service at the Yongsan South Chapel. Similar services were held at posts throughout South Korea.
“Everything that you see lately on the news, the war in Iraq, it all seems kind of downhill from there,” said Watson, the Seoul American senior, referring to the terrorist attacks. “It all seems related to that day.”
In mid-afternoon, Watson and other students read passages of remembrance over the school’s intercom system.
One sentence, in another of the letters compiled in the school’s scrapbook, summed it up.
“Multiply Scott by 3,000,” wrote Ann Johnson, whose son of that name was lost in the World Trade Center attacks, “and you will see the pain we are all feeling.”