Memories of loss, ten years later at International Fountain at Seattle Center

Sep 11, 2011

On Sept. 11, 2001, and the following days, more than 30,000 people gathered at the International Fountain at Seattle Center for a flower vigil that became one of many spontaneous gatherings around the world.

 I was happy to be among them, and glad to be among a smaller but just as meaningful group 10 years later.

The Saturday after the tragedy, I went to the fountain with my 18-month-old daughter and a childhood friend. We walked into a sea of people who were handing out flowers and placing the rest in the fountain. I remember nearby stores were giving out flowers for free, encouraging people to take them to the vigil.

Of the many faces I saw that day, I was particularly moved by the Sikh families in their traditional turbans for the men and flowing scarves for the women. They looked scared yet bravely handed out flowers. I went over to one of the women and accepted a sunflower from her. She and I had children about the same age. We both smiled at each other and played a few minutes with the children. No words were exchanged, but the connection was strong.

Ten years later

I returned to the fountain which was welcoming people again to join in peaceful reflection. What stood out for me today was, once again, the gentle feeling of brotherhood. There were fewer people there, but the scene still felt profound.

The Seattle Center's Kobe bell played an important part in the day, signaling the times the planes hit the buildings. John Merner, the Director of Productions at Seattle Center, also rang the bell to mark the beginning and end of silent meditation.

About 100 people joined him in the early morning hours, once more bringing flowers and lighting candles. While most people chose not to speak, I was able to talk with a family from Sammamish who brought their two young children to the event.

Nikolai and Elizabeth Faaland arrived at the fountain in the dark and watched the sunrise together. They told me how much they enjoyed being with other people in this quiet place, remembering 9/11. Nikolai said he recently had a loved one who died and being here brought him comfort. I understood what he meant.

Ten years ago when I attended the first memorial at the fountain, I had lost my mother six weeks before. I was grieving deeply at the time but being with people to remember those who died on 9/11 brought me comfort, too.