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  In a nation hungering for answers, our personal values were put to the test.
It's still a struggle for Lee and Olga Strickland to talk about their son, Larry, killed in the 9/11 terrorist attack on the Pentagon.
WE WERE TOLD in the days after the terrorist attacks to resume our normal lives, and by now most of us have. But some of us are those who survived the attacks. And some of us lost a brother that day, and some of us a son.

Missing from that hideous number of more than 3,000 are tens of thousands of other victims — those who have spent the last year without a wife or husband, a father, mother or child. For some in the Seattle area, Wednesday will be another day of heartache that has yet to go away, another day wondering how it is that everyone else has moved on.

Stories by John Wolfson, Seattle Times staff reporter

It was supposed to be his day off: Son's death 'makes you believe in destiny' Closure elusive for sister of man killed on first day at new job After first jet hit, sisters embraced, expected to die; now it helps to talk

Sept. 11, 2001

"The number of casualties will be more than most of us can bear."
— then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani of New York


I LOST my friend, Kathy Bantis, on Sept. 11.
Kathy moved to Seattle in 1993 and we worked together for five years. She was a wonderful mentor to me, and our friendship grew into a strong bond of sisterhood. She transferred to Chicago in 1999, but miles did not separate her presence in my life. We visited each other and spoke on the phone often.
Kathy was in New York working for a couple days and looking for a new place to live as she was relocating for a promotion. She was in the first tower when the plane hit. I can't bear to watch the footage of the planes hitting the buildings.
I think of Kathy every day. Some days it is with a smile or laughter — other days the sadness is as fresh as it was 11 months ago. I still needed her in my life, and the world needs more people like her. Her life and love is a gift I carry with me.
So, how is my life different post-Sept. 11? I make it a point to hug people a little tighter and a little longer. I'm trying to be better about sending e-mails or notes to people to let them know I'm thinking of them. Hatred stopped me in my tracks for a few days, but love keeps me moving.
Stacey Whitten, Tukwila
Sgt. Maj. Larry Strickland
Sgt. Maj. Larry

It was supposed
to be his day off:
Son's death 'makes
you believe in destiny'
Lee and Olga Strickland of Edmonds keep busy, gardening and spending time with friends. It's what their son would have wanted, they say. But a year is such a short time, and it's hard to watch TV or read the paper without reminders of the terrorist attacks that killed Sgt. Maj. Larry Strickland.

Sitting in his living room, Larry's father says he thinks of his son every day. Both parents find it difficult to talk of Larry without tears. Lee doesn't speak much, and he touches his eyes with a blue handkerchief when he does. Mostly he listens.

Larry, 53, was a musician, a percussionist who once played with the Cascade Symphony, and later a father of three, a gourmet cook and a senior adviser to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. On what should have been his day off, he went to work last Sept. 11 for a big meeting at the Pentagon.

"It makes you believe in destiny," Olga says. "Why did he go to work? Why did the plane hit that corner" of the Pentagon? "I guess it was just his time."

Larry was listed as missing for more than a week. Ten days after the attacks, an Army chaplain and grief counselor carried the official news into the Stricklands’ home, the home where Larry had grown up. But his parents already knew. Olga had known the moment she turned on the television and saw the Pentagon's smoking ruins. She never believed he had survived.

"My daughter-in-law, she always felt there might be a chance," she says. "But I just knew."

The Stricklands will attend the symphony on Wednesday, the anniversary of Larry's death. Olga has heard that the musicians will wear little hearts pinned to their chests, little hearts carrying the names of Sept. 11 victims. "I hope someone ..." she gasps suddenly and involuntarily. Then she continues, "I hope someone remembers to wear a heart with my son's name."

Lawrence Kim
Lawrence Kim

Closure elusive
for sister of man
killed on first day
at new job
Catherine Fleming received a call Jan. 11 with the same news that has brought relief to hundreds of other families. But the call offered her no solace. Four months to the day after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, workers had discovered remains of her younger brother.

Fleming, who lives in Seattle, had already spent months trying to accept that Lawrence Kim, 31, was dead. The idea that her brother had died on his very first day at Marsh & McLennan, on the 97th floor of the North Tower, was beyond belief. Fleming spent days calling every hospital in the New York area, certain Larry would turn up at one of them.

She eventually came to terms with the inevitable. Life resumed a certain normalcy and the months passed, though her grief did not. And then she got the call.

"That just totally set me back," Fleming says, her arms crossed. She had trouble sleeping and surprised even herself with outbursts of rage at co-workers or other drivers. Worse, every now and again she got another call or e-mail from a friend who, months later, had only just learned that Larry was dead. And every time, the well-meaning gesture hurt just a little more.

"I cannot believe I'm having such a hard time dealing with this," Fleming told herself in April. But she was. And in some ways she still is.

Virginia Mason Hospital's Separation and Loss Services clinic has helped greatly. So did her vision of Larry looking down, concerned about her anger. She's let a lot of that go now. "The space between the numbness and the grief has gotten bigger," she says.

Still, Fleming cannot bring herself to watch the news or read newspapers. The images are always there, the towers aflame. And everyone talks about it all like it's just, well, news. “The rest of the world has gone on," she says, "but we're still trying to figure out what happened."

After much deliberation, Fleming and her husband will join her family in New York on Wednesday for the city's commemorative ceremonies. "I think it's going to be difficult," she says, "but I think it will bring everything around full circle."

Roberta Krause
Roberta Krause, of Kirkland, avoids hotel rooms except those on the ground floor.

After first jet hit,
sisters embraced,
expected to die; now
it helps to talk
Some internalize memories of tragedy, locking them away deep and tight, the better to contain them. Some, such as Roberta Krause, of Kirkland, broadcast their memories, forcing them out, the better to disperse them.

When the first jet hit the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, Krause was finishing a light breakfast in Room 1624 of a hotel that stood adjacent to the twin towers. Her sister, Jane, was in the bathroom, brushing her teeth. The impact felt like a bomb exploding. Unsure what had happened, Krause ran to embrace her sister, then told her they were going to die.

They didn’t die. They followed fleeing maids and other guests down the stairs and scrambled out of the hotel. Later, boats carried them across the Hudson River to New Jersey. Before the two sisters left New York days later, the manager of a Holiday Inn gave each of them a gray T-shirt depicting the city's skyline in sparkly gold.

Krause, 65, still wears that shirt every time she gives a speech recounting her experience. By the end of the month, she will have given 37 one-hour talks, to civic groups, to schools, to whomever asks. "I think that has probably helped me get over all this," she says.

Talking has helped quell the nightmares and helped her sleep again. She has spoken to groups as large as 700 and as far away as Spokane, creating for her audiences vivid scenes of the attack itself and the frightful days afterward. The spirit of her message is best summarized by her own written account, drafted the night she returned home. "All of our lives are forever changed," she wrote. "Everything in the country changed at 8:45 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001. It can never be like it was. Pray for us."

She's not entirely back to normal. "I get scared a lot more easily than I did before this happened," she says. The sound of low-flying jets still startles her, and she'll accept only ground-floor rooms at hotels.

Krause will give two speeches on Wednesday to commemorate the anniversary of Sept. 11. She declined an invitation to give a third one, at the Bank of America Tower, Seattle's tallest skyscraper. "When I heard that, I could feel every inch of my body, and I could feel the squeeze," she says. "And I just said no."

John Wolfson: 206-464-2061 or


MY HUSBAND and I spent our lives trying to keep our children safe and yet our son ended up in the middle of the worst catastrophe of a generation. My personal sorrow over my son's confrontation with evil (he escaped unharmed) still keeps me awake at night. And so does my sorrow for those other mothers, the ones whose sons and daughters were lost that day.
I can't forget our Veterans Day visit to Ground Zero, reading page after page of others’ pain: the letter from Amy's family, who asked that she be remembered with donations of books to a local library; the love letter to a lost husband; the poignant "We Miss Our Daddy" poster.
I thought a year's time was enough to "get over it." But when I opened the paper and read the article describing New York's plans to commemorate Sept. 11, I found myself sitting at the kitchen table, sobbing.
Tears have come more easily this past year, and more frequently. At first, I was embarrassed and scolded myself to get a grip. Now I feel that such losses deserve our tears. So I don't plan to "get over it." I plan to let the tears flow, as long as they need to.
Kirby Larson, Kenmore


UNLIKE MANY unfortunate souls, my brother escaped the crumbling, towering inferno of the World Trade Center. Prayers to God thanking Him for saving my brother seemed a bit selfish since thousands weren't as lucky. But I believe God had different plans for those people, and that He spared my brother for a reason.
My brother just got married a few weeks ago, an event that almost didn't happen because of that September day. One year later, my life has forever changed, but for the best. I know what's important to me now and nothing, especially not some cowardly terrorist, can take that away from me.
Tracy Lyons, Woodinville


Sept. 11, 2001

Some 50,000 people worked in the World Trade Center, and tens of thousands visited them daily. After the WTC collapsed, 2,823 people died, including the passengers aboard the two jetliners flown into the towers.
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