A Year of Healing

Marylanders reflect on Sept. 11 and look beyond, with wariness and hope

Voices

September 11, 2002

Lindsay S. Alger, obstetrician

Dr. Lindsay S. Alger specializes in treating mothers giving birth to twins or triplets, premature babies and other potentially risky deliveries. As she has discovered over the past year, it's a profession that insulates you when disaster strikes.

"Life-and-death situations happen every day," said Alger, director of labor and delivery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. "You worry if you make the wrong decision, either the mother or baby might die. I've had very close calls."

FOR THE RECORD - In an article in yesterday's editions of The Sun, Baltimore Circuit Court Judge William D. Quarles was incorrectly quoted as saying that before Sept. 11, he believed bomb scares were the handiwork of defense lawyers trying to delay trials. In fact, he said he used to believe bomb scares were the handiwork of defendants. The Sun regrets the error.

In the months after Sept. 11, Alger, 52, has watched once-unthinkable subjects such as smallpox attacks become routine at the hospital. It doesn't rattle her. "I can't do anything about it anyway. So why obsess?" She's tormented far more, she said, by making a bad call in the delivery room.

Her routine hasn't changed much in the past year. She still works long hours -- sometimes 24 or more at a stretch. She still spends every minute of free time with her husband and two children. "My life is constantly being pulled away from my family. So there's always been a feeling of 'time is precious.'" When a family reunion was held in London on the Fourth of July, she didn't ever seriously consider not going, even though she and her husband asked themselves if they were crazy to risk traveling.

If there's one thing that has changed, she allowed, it's her optimism about the future. "I don't believe it will be the last time something like that happens." And the constant talk of war with Iraq isn't helping. "People say the U.S. will have to be ready to stomach losses. I have a son who's 18 years old. I don't have the stomach to take that kind of loss."

But in the delivery room, at least, she finds satisfaction. "You don't really get that much bigger event than the birth of a child. It's a miracle. That doesn't get changed by Sept. 11 or anything else."

-- Michael Stroh

Tom Jones, astronaut

Before he became an astronaut and flew four NASA space shuttle missions, Baltimore native Tom Jones, 47, worked for the CIA and flew strategic bombers for the Air Force. During the Cold War, defending the nation was based on deterrence. The threat of nuclear war called for a bristling defense and a patient tolerance of angry rhetoric from abroad.

The Sept. 11 attacks changed that for Jones. Foreign criticism now seems "misguided or ignorant," he said. "False gestures of sensitivity [toward foreign critics] seems a luxury we don't have anymore. We used to be able to put up with people hurling threats because we didn't think they'd come through. We've seen what can happen.

"Now I realize that we have to do things on a day-to-day basis to protect ourselves. [Unlike during the Cold War] there's gonna be some real people going out and fighting real combat. Deterrence doesn't work."

The attacks, he said, have "made me more determined to not change the way I enjoy life or do my work. In some sense you've got to trust that the people defending us are going to do their jobs."

Yet he feels more optimistic about America's future. "The fact that so many people died in the attack shocked people in a way they haven't been since Pearl Harbor -- the shock of realization that our country, our way of life and our ideals have to be defended. Reading history, that has had to happen every couple of generations, it seems."

Jones does not believe that his children will see the end of terrorism. "But I think my children will realize that there are people there to protect them, and later on they will be asked to take on the obligation themselves, and they will realize that what we've got in this country is not a gift without a price."

-- Frank D. Roylance

The Rev. William J. Watters, pastor

The Rev. William J. Watters, S.J., has been working on a sermon he wished he could have delivered a year ago.

When the terrorists struck, Watters, the pastor of St. Ignatius Catholic Church and president of St. Ignatius Loyola Academy in Mount Vernon, was traveling in Zagreb, Croatia, and unable to get back to Baltimore. The priest, known for his eloquent, thought-provoking homilies, was silenced at a time his flock needed him most.

"It deeply affected me. It's hard to describe how moved I was inside myself. Even when I speak about it now, I'm tearing up," said Watters, 68. "I just felt so incapacitated because I wasn't present, with family, friends, parishioners, the students."

A year later, he wants to share a message he was not allowed to then: have hope.

In the midst of "the tragedy we've gone through, the terrible experience that has been visited upon our people and upon our nation, we shouldn't lose our perspective as a people of faith, a people of hope and a people of love," he said. "We do need to mourn, and we have been mourning. But we also need to remember who we are as a people who have been given a promise, a promise that out of the ashes and out of the deaths and out of the tragedy a new day, a new hope, a new moment is upon us to remember the resurrection."

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