A year of changes

The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, affected far more than the immediate circle of victims, survivors and their families. Many Americans quickly returned to established paths, but others embarked on unexpected journeys.

Tom Ridge’s final term as Pennsylvania governor ended dramatically in October when he became the country’s first director of homeland security. Any day, former Lehigh Valley Congressman Paul McHale is expected to leave his law practice to coordinate domestic security for the Pentagon.

But many other stories have yet to be told of the changes in people’s lives. Here are a few of them:

‘HE’S NEVER HERE’

Ever since his superiors at Newark Liberty International Airport handed him a shotgun and declared, “We’re under attack,” Anthony Gattullo’s life has been a blur of 12-hour shifts and duty on holidays.

The 50-year-old Port Authority policeman, who commutes from Bethlehem to his airport job, isn’t around for his children.

“He’s never here. I feel like a single parent,” said Susan Gattullo, 48, who has had to be mother and father to the couple’s three children. “We don’t have much family time.”

Gattullo, a 16-year veteran, came within moments of being in the World Trade Center when it crumbled. Rushed to lower Manhattan, he had one boot on when the towers fell.

“If it weren’t for the traffic jam on the Newark Bay Extension Bridge,” he said, “I’d be dead.”

The Port Authority lost 37 officers. Gattullo picked up the remains of some at Bellevue Hospital Center, and attended 15 wakes and funerals. Among the dead were four of his classmates from the Port Authority Police Academy.

“It’s a bitter anniversary coming up,” he said.

The terrorist attack changed Susan Gattullo’s perception of her husband’s job. He was an airport traffic cop. Now, he’s on the lookout for terrorists.

“He’s more vulnerable,” she said, “and I feel more vulnerable.”

— Ron Devlin

‘GOOD CAN COME OF EVIL’

When Roy and Melissa Danner look at their 1-year-old son, Briggs, they see hope for the future.

Jabbering “da, da” and struggling to take his first steps, the cheerful little guy knows nothing of the hate that inspired the terrorist attacks.

“The birth of this beautiful child on that day of tragedy,” insists Melissa, “shows that something good can come of evil.”

Briggs made his earthly debut at 3:39 p.m. Sept. 11, 2001 — almost seven hours after the attacks.

His mother had had two miscarriages. A week overdue, labor had to be induced. When the umbilical cord wrapped around the baby’s neck, doctors at Lehigh Valley Hospital performed an emergency Caesarean section.

The Danners, of South Whitehall Township, struggled to balance their happiness with the nation’s grief.

“I felt guilty for months,” said Melissa, 30, a teacher at Orefield Middle School. “As tragedy hit America, a little piece of heaven blessed the Danner family.”

Melissa broke down months later in an Allentown salon, where she read a magazine article about women who were pregnant when their husbands died in the World Trade Center.

“I started bawling,” she said. “That’s when it really hit me. I really felt the devastation of Sept. 11.”

— Ron Devlin

SHE CRIED ALL THE WAY

As she drove home from work on Sept. 11, 2001, Patty Daugherty noticed how deserted the roads were. The emptiness combined with the devastating TV images playing back in her mind was overwhelming.

She cried all the way.

“I think we all felt the same way. You were in a daze, and you couldn’t believe this was happening,” Daugherty said.

That dazed feeling was quickly overtaken by a need to take action. The 49-year-old mother of three already was involved in her community as president of the Nazareth Kiwanis Club. But that day made her realize she should do more.

“As the days went on,” she said, “I thought there must be something I could do. Everyone wanted to do something. And I’m a nurse, so I called the Red Cross.”

Daugherty, an administrator at a women’s prison in Clinton, N.J., had become a nurse in 1993 because she liked taking care of people. She had been thinking about the American Red Cross of the Greater Lehigh Valley for about a year. After Sept. 11, she was committed to it.

Daugherty and her daughter, Kiley, 19, who also volunteered, have worked several fires. Her training enables her to respond to earthquakes, floods and — if need be — terrorist attacks.

But even if she never ventures far from home, Daugherty wrote in a recent essay, volunteering has given her a renewed focus. “It’s no longer enough for me to go to work every day as a nurse, and then come home and leave that role,” she said. “It is who I am every day, and I realize that now more than ever.”

— Jeff Miller

‘I HURT SPIRITUALLY’

John Waring can’t get the blue shirt out of his mind.

He sees the vivid color falling from the burning World Trade Center. It was worn by someone who jumped to certain death as Waring watched, in horror, from his Seaport Plaza office several blocks away.

Waring, 44, who commutes daily from Macungie to lower Manhattan, found himself questioning why God allowed so many innocent people to die that day, that way.

“I couldn’t resolve why these people died,” Waring says. “I hurt spiritually, and lost my faith for a while.”

Counseling helped. Writing e-mails about what he saw was therapeutic. Waring’s pastor, the Rev. Jeff K. Aiken of First Presbyterian Church of Allentown, helped most.

A former retail manager, Waring thought about getting a job in the Lehigh Valley. If he did, though, the terrorists would have won.

Now, Waring concentrates on the little things. He hugs his children a little tighter. He comes home to them and his wife every night. He tips street people more often, and thinks of how to make the world a better place.

“I’m probably a better person for it,” he says of Sept. 11.

— Ron Devlin

‘I DIDN’T THINK TWICE’

The morning of the attacks, Duncan Campbell was in Richmond, Va., for a strategy meeting on the Virginia governor’s race.

As executive director of the Republican Governors Association, Campbell, 30, is supposed to help elect GOP candidates in 36 states holding gubernatorial elections through this year. But as the nation’s priorities shifted dramatically, so did Campbell’s.

Within a month, the Harrisburg native who was raised in Camp Hill was working for the new White House Office of Homeland Security as one of Tom Ridge’s first 10 hires.

Politics, the thing that brought him to Washington, suddenly took a back seat to fighting terrorism. “I was set to do whatever he wanted me to do,” Campbell said. “I didn’t think twice about it.”

In his role as point man for intergovernmental affairs, Campbell works closely with some of the same Democratic governors he once plotted to defeat.

The first months were hectic. Campbell, who is single, worked 14-hour days and didn’t shower out of reach of a cell phone or pager.

Things have calmed a bit, but he still travels frequently on his own and with Ridge. He spends hours working the phones and communicating by e-mail to coordinate state and local security efforts with federal agencies.

Campbell feels a strong sense of pride and patriotism working with people who are committed to making the country more secure.

“This is the hardest job I’ve ever had, but it’s also the most fulfilling,” he said.

— Jeff Miller

MISSING HIS SOLDIER DAD

Twelve years ago, when Dennis Weaver Jr. was about to be born, his father was fighting Saddam Hussein’s troops in Desert Storm. Sgt. Dennis Weaver of Bethlehem, then an Army infantryman, was flown home on emergency leave for his son’s birth in Lehigh Valley Hospital.

Now, as young Dennis stands on the edge of his teen years, Sgt. Weaver is on active duty in Europe with the Pennsylvania National Guard. A member of the 228th Forward Support Battalion in Bethlehem, he is guarding a U.S. military base in the Netherlands.

Dennis misses playing catch and soccer with his dad. Sometimes, they’d go for walks. Often, they’d attend services at Central Assembly of God in Bethlehem.

Dennis was a student at Central Christian Academy in Bethlehem, but changed schools because he now lives with his mother in Egypt. He’s in seventh grade at Orefield Middle School.

He likes history and is fascinated by maps. He talks of following in his father’s military footsteps, albeit as an Air Force pilot.

A quiet boy, he watches the news and thinks of war, terrorism and his father. “It’s kind of pathetic,” he says, “that terrorists would go so low as to attack buildings with innocent people in them.”

His mom, Connie Andrews, says Dennis is quieter now. Though he talks to his dad by phone, she can tell Dennis is hurting inside. “He misses his dad, he really does,” she says.

He might get to see his dad for Thanksgiving. The National Guard might fly some of the 228th’s family members home.

Meanwhile, Dennis puts on a good front. He’s all military. But at night, when he’s alone in his bedroom, he asks God to watch over his father.

“Every night, I pray that he’s OK, that he stays safe,” he says, “and that he comes home.”

— Ron Devlin

DVDs IN AFGHANISTAN

The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 made it possible for Said Homayun Naderi to go home again.

Since the U.S.-led coalition ousted the Taliban, Naderi, 50, has made three trips to Afghanistan. Last month he was in Kabul having tea with President Hamid Karzai, a childhood friend, and buying video discs in the market.

“I bought DVDs in Afghanistan!” Naderi said. “I swear to God I thought I would never see that.”

It’s been nearly 30 years since Naderi left Afghanistan with his family to settle in Allentown. He hadn’t been back since the early 1990s, when the Taliban began solidifying its hold on the war-ravaged country.

For several years, Naderi lobbied Washington on behalf of Gen. Rashid Dostum and the Northern Alliance rebels to overthrow the repressive Islamic regime.

His cousin and brother-in-law, Said Jaffar Naderi, who lived for a time in Allentown and was the subject of a documentary film on Afghanistan warlords, was also heavily involved in battling the Taliban.

Said Homayun Naderi is still angry that it took a terrorist attack on U.S. soil to take out the Taliban. But the anger in his voice subsides when he talks about the changes he’s seen in his homeland.

“The kids go to school, women go to school and to work,” he said. “The roads are open. People go on holidays, to the mountains. They dance at weddings. This is a good thing.”

Naderi hasn’t ruled out moving back to pursue a political career once Afghanistan establishes a permanent government. He said he’s considering running for Parliament, where his father was once a high-ranking official.

For now, though, Naderi said he’s happy just “to see my beautiful country again.”

— Jeff Miller

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
Comments
Loading