POULSBO — A year ago Poulsbo woke up to the same terror as the rest of the nation seeing the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C. And despite being almost a world away, some of the repercussions hit home as if they were just down the block.
For most, the event brought# a year of struggles to cope with the thought of such mass destruction on American soil. For others in the city, the attacks would forever change they way they do business.
The day of the Sept. 11 attacks the Federal Aviation Administration ordered a cease flight and airplanes around the nation were grounded. The Port of Poulsbo was also under orders from the FAA not to allow any new boats moor. While ports were back to business much more quickly than airports, Harbor Manager Ed Erhardt said the experience still seems to stick in most people’s minds in their dealings with the port.
“Port security has increased at our major ports, which is good,” Erhardt commented. “I think even at our own little port people are a lot more vigilant about what’s going on around the docks these days.”
Business has also forever changed for our boys in blue.
Poulsbo Police Chief Jeff Doran said international terrorism has become something in which all of his officers are being actively trained, rather than a side note to other areas.
Doran added that extra training and waits for new equipment to become available has been the biggest strain on his force in the last year. He recalled being utterly stunned by the news the morning of Sept. 11, but said he and his officers knew they had a larger mission and could not be bogged down by the sadness that overwhelmed most people.
“In our business, things don’t stop, it’s got to be continue to march,” Doran explained. “Everybody here is used to dealing with situations like traffic accidents where someone has died or fatalities of some sort and continuing to do their jobs.”
Officer Ricki Sabado said Sept. 11 definitely brought the danger of their jobs to the forefront for many emergency personnel and their families.
However, he said, the experience also strengthened his dedication to his duties. Sabado said on the Sept. 11 anniversary he’d be remembering why he chose his profession.
“It makes you feel proud of what you do as a police officer or a firefighter because you know as you see all of those images of those people running away from the danger that the police and the fire were running toward the danger,” Sabado explained. “It reminds you as a police officer or a firefighter that you’re here to protect others and you’re here to jeopardize your own safety and your own life for someone else.”
“That incident refreshed my desire to work toward getting hired on here,” added Officer David Gesell, a newly hired Poulsbo officer who was working toward a law enforcement degree at the time of the attacks.
Councilman Mike Regis said the attacks have also reminded Poulsbo residents of their unique place near the military personnel who also risk life and limb to protect others. He said the city is heavily reliant on money, jobs and talent from nearby Keyport and Bangor and military action after the attacks reminded many people of this fact.
“We provide amenities and a quality of life for these people who have committed their lives to service,” Regis noted. “Our mission statement is to make sure they have the quality of life to ensure they want to fulfill that mission… I just felt the whole community recommitted to sustaining those people who commit to that larger mission.”
Former Navy man and city council member Jim Henry, who was actually still cutting his political teeth in Poulsbo last year on Sept. 11, added that for nearly nine months the city council received suggestions from community members on how to increase homeland security. He said he sees a long road ahead for the nation, and that nothing will ever be the same, but that it has showed many the value of the nation they live in.
Images of the terrorist attacks broadcast across television news stations also evoked immediate emotional reactions from most people. Churches opened their doors for prayers, public events included spontaneous verses of “God Bless America” and people looked for ways to turn tragedy into triumph.
One place people flocked to was the New York Deli on Viking Avenue.
Owners Rick and Janis Rey, formerly of New York, said by the time they reached their store the morning of Sept. 11 they found a small but growing roadside memorial had already sprouted around the scale model Statue of Liberty in front of the eatery. For more than three months the spot was filled with flowers, cards, poems, pictures and other gifts.
“It kind of warmed our hearts that being 3,500 miles away from home that here in Poulsbo people cared about what was going on over there,” Rick Rey said. “People we didn’t even know came from Port Orchard and Bainbridge Island and all over to ask how were affected and to tell us how they were affected.”
Dancing Brush owner Christina Veatch said her shop had a similar experience with community members yearning to make a positive statement about the event.
“On the eleventh and twelfth people were coming in here just to paint because they needed to get away from their TVs. It was just so overwhelming,” she remembered.
Over the last year red, white and blue has become a popular color scheme at Dancing Brush, which also plans activities and refreshments today. Employees helped community members paint a tile wall hanging that was eventually donated to the Poulsbo Fire Department and a red, white and blue cookie jar was filled weekly to brighten the day of local firefighters.
“It was so meaningful to be able to participate with the community and give what we could give in a time when there was so much pain,” Veatch said. “You think we’re so far away but our lives were touched so much.”
Another local business that became a hub of activity was Yes USA on Front Street. A local source of flags from around the globe, owner Gary Hoskins said his small stock of Old Glory ran dry in a day or two. It was about six months before the store could begin filling the orders on its lengthy waiting list.
“They wanted something to show they were Americans. Pins, patches, something they could wear or put in their home,” Hoskins said.