A Solemn Remembrance


A quiet strength rose from the people gathered to remember a local life lost in the tragedy of 9/11.

In memory of Sue Kim Hanson (SPHS 1984), husband Peter Hanson, and their 2-year-old daughter Christine, who died on United Airlines Flight 175 as it crashed into the World Trade Center’s South Tower, a plaque was dedicated in the courtyard of City Hall this past Sunday, September 11, 2011, the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on American soil.

As Mike Ten, South Pasadena’s Mayor, made his opening remarks, there was an immediate call for us as a community to “connect to yesterday.” Through remembering, honoring, and volunteerism, we, as a South Pasadena family, can make a difference for our future, in light of the thousands of innocent lives lost, many heroes, because of all that unfolded from that infamous day.

The tribulation of September 11, 2001 can feel distant and surreal as seen repeatedly on television or heard on the radio. But when you are a part of a neighborhood event, like the remembrance service and dedication on Sunday, there is a direct and personal connection to the grieving and a renewed sense of hope to put petty things aside and further peace, whether in a broken relationship, within a city, or between nations.

Kevin Danni, former South Pasadena resident and survivor of the attacks on the World Trade Center, shared his memory of that fateful day, giving us a taste into the chaos at ground zero. As Danni descended the stairwell in the World Trade Center’s South Tower, fire fighters ascended, repeating encouraging words to keep heading down, where safety lie ahead. Twelve minutes after he exited the tower, it collapsed. To this day, Danni cannot stop thanking local heroes, like firefighters and police for their constant service, putting others lives before their own.

Along with the dedication of the memorial plaque for City Hall, and a “peace” plaque written in Korean for the High School, family and friends of Hanson gave brief tributes to the woman they loved. Not only did Hanson attend UC Berkeley and was at the tail end of finishing her PhD at Boston University’s School of Medicine, she was remembered as a vibrant personality.

As depicted by Hanson’s cousin, Ji Sung Kim, despite a rough transition to the States at 5-years-old, from being raised by her grandmother in Korea to living with parents in South Pasadena, “To me, she is a symbol of survival.” Hanson helped to keep the American dream alive as a fruitful member of society, when her and her family’s lives were abruptly halted.

Francie Schwarz (SPHS 1984) was at UC Berkeley with Hanson when running into her on the street. She remembers that interaction well because on the spot, the effervescent Hanson wrote a poem about Schwarz. “What kind of a person would just be able to do that? She’s just so confident and so engaged in the world around her…” states Schwarz with a grin.

A close friend from elementary school on, Ann Wyatt Moore (SPHS 1984) added of Hanson “Being in South Pas was one of the best parts of her life… She felt accepted and loved.”

I am especially encouraged by these personal reflections because they give a deeper picture into the life of a soul who walked among us. One way to help our society is to accept and love others as Hanson felt in South Pasadena.

Ten closed the morning’s event with a call to action on our part, in honor of the lives lost on 9/11, “to stand up, step forward, and make a commitment to get involved… to make things better.”

If you missed the ceremony on Sunday, visit the plaque anytime, outside in the foyer of City Hall because goodness and strength is aided by remembering.

I remember that awful day. Just weeks earlier, I had found out I was pregnant with my firstborn. As a new mother, I had swelling hopes for my child, to come into a world full of possibilities. So when I witnessed the unfolding attacks via media, I held my belly as tears fell, not only for the lost American lives, but for the next generation who would never understand life without the threat of localized terrorism. I thought, “What kind of world am I bringing my child into?”

But since then, my hope is being renewed. There are still threats looming about us daily, but to be paralyzed by them is far from the answer. Rather, when I am faced with my mortality, I’m invigorated and empowered to live life well, for myself and for others.


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