Where were you when four hijacked jetliners burst into flames on a beautiful September morning?
- By: Paul Doiron
Where were you when four hijacked jetliners burst into flames on a beautiful September morning? I remember exactly where I was ten years ago on 9/11: I was in the Down East offices, watching and listening with my horrified colleagues as the worst terrorist attack on American soil unfolded.
In the hours and days that followed we learned of the tangential links between the attack and the state of Maine. Many of the dead were from Maine or had Maine ties. Ringleader Mohammed Atta and his accomplice had slipped past security at the Portland International Jetport with box cutters after spending a night, improbably, at a Comfort Inn near the Maine Mall. One of the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center, we also discovered, was carrying crates of live lobsters from Atwood Lobster Company in Spruce Head.
In September, the nation will remember the events of that terrible day and honor the people we lost. In Maine, as in other places, there will be ceremonies and speeches, but one of the most inspirational memorials will take place weeks before the anniversary at a kid’s camp on Damariscotta Lake. For the past decade, Camp Kieve-Wavus has sponsored a weeklong program for the friends and families of people killed on 9/11 — specifically the New York Fire Department, the Pentagon, and the Cantor Fitzgerald investment bank — offering its facilities to more than one hundred grieving people per summer.
Director Russ Williams recalls how the idea began. “We were sitting at a board meeting in the fall of 2001,” he says, “and we thought there must be something we can do to help.” The camp began collecting donations to fund a program for the survivors. “Those people had been on a rollercoaster and at first they were a bit skeptical.” How could a week at a Maine camp make anything better?
“We just wanted to open our doors and offer them some fun and relaxation and healing,” says Williams. This approach turned out to be exactly what the families needed, he explains. “Our therapy is offered by sitting and listening and being friends.”
The feeling runs both ways: Williams recently lost his house in a fire, and his friends at Ladder Company 3 Battalion 6 have offered to help him re-side his barn this fall. “I always say, ‘It’s unfortunate why we met, but we never would have met otherwise,’ ” he says. These are the enduring Maine ties worth remembering on September 11.
- By: Paul Doiron