BELLINGHAM - Conor McClurg, Stephanie Ma and Natalie Maeda don’t have many memories of the world before Sept. 11, 2001.
The Bellingham students were only 5 years old when terrorists struck the Pentagon and World Trade Center. Though their memories of that day are vague and jumbled, in the 10 years since then they’ve come to understand its impact.
“I was a little confused about the whole thing,” Conor said. “I didn’t know there were terrorists and a whole thing behind it. As I got older I realized what it was and was able to understand it more. A terrible thing happened, and there was not very much we could do about it at the time.”
The students were kindergarteners at Assumption Catholic School at the time and were photographed by The Bellingham Herald at a prayer service Sept. 11, 2001. Now 15 and sophomores at Squalicum High School, they got together to share their memories of that day with The Herald.
Conor remembers waking up that morning just like he did every day. One of his neighbors came running over to the house to tell his mom what had happened, and his mom told him that someone had crashed into two big towers in New York City. Once at school, he and the other students were part of an afternoon prayer service for the injured, the dead and their families.
“I remember everyone was really sad and my feet were really sore from kneeling in the pew and praying for half an hour,” Conor said.
Though Stephanie couldn’t remember details from the day, she described the attacks as a tragedy for the country. She hopes the country is healing and moving on as we honor the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11.
“It’s sad,” she said. “(People) always remember that day that the planes came and destroyed the two towers.”
Like Conor, Natalie distinctly remembers the confusion she felt that day, seeing so many people who were so sad and not fully understanding why. She remembers the unusual darkness of the prayer service, and wondering why it was being held on a Tuesday.
“I did realize something was going on, but I don’t think I realized it that much,” she said.
Since then, she’s come to see the attacks as a country-changing event. She knows they’ve changed the nation’s security, and she saddened than in some cases that day has created prejudice against people who had nothing to do with the attacks. It’s been scary to realize that such a small group of people can cause so much pain, but it’s also been a powerful reminder of the importance of enjoying each day.
“Be careful and savor the moment because you never know if your life is going to end or someone you love’s life is going to end,” Natalie said.
Readers of the The Bellingham Herald share their memories of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, and we remember the historic events and explore their impact in photos, video and stories at whatcom.remembers911.com.
More 9/11-related stories on local people will publish in The Bellingham Herald and in that online section over the next few days. On Sunday, look for more memories from dozens of readers along with an article on the massive increase in security at the Whatcom County border with Canada in wake of the attacks.