Seattle Center’s Kobe Bell. For the 10-year memorial of September 11th, the bell tolled at the times the airplanes crashed that day.
Ladan Yalzadeh was at home in her lower Manhattan apartment the morning the World Trade Center towers fell. As the dust settled she emerged to walk the streets.
Born and raised in Iran, Ladan came to the United States with her family as a school child and quickly adapted to life in small-town western Washington State. After high school she studied theater and film and then, with a degree from The Evergreen State College, lived in Los Angeles for several years where she wrote and directed films.
On the faces of passersby that day in New York she saw fear, anger and, in glances directed her way, suspicion. “It was the first time I experienced an awareness of myself as Middle Eastern,” she recalls. But she also noticed a special intimacy, a desire to comfort each other among strangers, a “rippling effect of kindness”.
In Union Square Park on 14th Street, the assembly place closest to Ground Zero while lower Manhattan remained cordoned off, people began to erect spontaneous shrines and memorials. In the midst of this activity, which continued for several days, a group of Buddhist monks sat silently, creating a sacred space.
For the 10-year anniversary of September 11th Ladan, now returned to Seattle and active with the Shambhala Meditation Center, wished to recapture and share that sense of connection and sacred space she had experienced in the immediate aftermath of the event. Having worked there as an events planner in the past, she realized the Seattle Center offered an ideal space. With the open bowl of the International Fountain and the nearby Kobe Bell “it was all right there”. The location was also a natural choice because it had been the center of memorials and flower offerings ten years earlier.
With John Merner, Director of Productions at Seattle Center, Ladan and other volunteers created a quiet, deeply moving memorial.
By the light of candle lanterns encircling the space, people began to gather at the International Fountain long before daylight. They sat or stood in silent meditation and reflection. At 5:46 a.m. the Kobe Bell sounded, indicating the moment the first plane struck the North Tower. It tolled again at 6:03, 6:37 and 7:03, the time of impact of the other three airplanes.
As the rising sun cast shadows across the fountain, more people arrived, some with flowers or written tributes, with children, cameras. In silence, volunteers offered donated coffee and muffins to those around the circle. At ten the bell tolled a final time to end the silence of meditation.
Sunday the 11th was a surprisingly warm day in Seattle, an unexpected gift at the end of a colder than normal summer. As the temperature rose, the fountain’s sprays of water began to attract children. Sunbathers began to sprawl on the perimeter. Having first taken note of the memorial flowers and messages, people moved on to the business of enjoying the beautiful day. As Ladan had hoped, it was for many “a day of remembering but from the perspective of healing”.
Shambhala meditation instructor Robert Reichner described it this way: “I felt glad to attend a memorial for the events of 9/11 that expressed very simply what it means to be a human being. The four bells echoing in the pre-dawn hours offered a touching way of recalling the loss of that time, with those gathered simply being together and being present. It was a beautiful example of how we as a global community can meet times of confusion by joining one another with open hearts and minds and simply being.”
Contributor: Julie Welch.
Photo: Julie Welch.