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The Webfooted Astronomer - October 2001


From the President’s Pen . . . Hope in the Face of Tragedy

By Mary Ingersoll

I’M writing this article only 10 days after terrorists attacked the World Trade Center in New York City, ending the lives of over 6,000 men, women, and children. My husband’s company, Royal & Sun Alliance (an insurance company whose home office is in the UK) lost three of the 128 people who worked at the WTC office. The families will receive benefits from the company, but the employees have been raising money (through bake sales and auctions) to give them something more from their own hearts.

That’s the way we are. We grieve, and then we want to do something. Some people have complained about the United States being too rich; however, we are always the first to give of our resources to help others in need. I believe we have always understood that with our riches came responsibilities, and we have been very generous.

My parents left Europe after World War II. The destruction of Germany was so severe they thought it could never be rebuilt in their lifetime. Fifteen years later they returned to visit family and friends they left behind. They were almost in shock when they saw the bombed-out land they had left had been transformed into a productive, growing nation. It was something they could not have envisioned a decade and a half earlier. A nation rebuilt by the help of America. Recently I met a woman who had gone to Germany right after the war with other college students to help build homes, hospitals and distribute food. (They were sponsored by churches from the United States) She remembered how grateful the people were, and how surprised they were that Americans would want to help them. They kept asking, “Who are these people?”

When my parents came here, they were sponsored by the only living relative my father had outside the Soviet Union; a relative who had escaped during the Russian Revolution. My father had survived Stalin’s purge of the Ukraine and had fought on the wrong side of a global conflict. But here in the U.S. my parents found people who did not ostracize them, but welcomed them with open arms. My Dad says that those who were his first friends in the country were those who had worn American uniforms. They were the most understanding of the situation, and the most forgiving.

I am encouraged by future possibilities. Though this attack on our citizens has changed our country, I do not believe that it has ended it. I have heard the stories of my parents and others of their generation, which taught me that life can be hard but it can also be wonderful. My parents’ first Christmas in the U.S. was in New York City. Their ship had been delayed because of a winter storm and they were welcomed only by the Statue of Liberty and the cold reality of being in a strange land without any friends nearby. (The train they would take to Seattle didn’t leave until the next day.) They wandered up from the docks and through a maze of skyscrapers. Beneath these immense buildings, they felt small and fragile. There were no gifts to unwrap that day, instead they acquired a hope for the future.

My hope and prayer is that you will be encouraged during this time of tragedy. Know that you are not alone. Spend more time with your children, your relatives and your neighbors. Star Parties are always free, so bring the family (invite your neighbors) to join us when the stars are out. We’ve got great meetings scheduled for you at the lecture hall on the UW campus, and our annual banquet is always lots of fun. Our special interest groups continue to meet, and the task force is working on the “mobile telescope project.” Are you ready to get to work on getting your Messier (Hershel, Lunar, Meteor, Asteroid) certificate? Contact Loren Busch on how you can observe toward a goal. Living in Seattle we know that they sky might become overcast and gloomy, but eventually the clouds will part and the stars will shine. Seattle astronomers are optimists.

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