L.A. Jews Reflect on Sept. 11

As we approach the one-year anniversary of Sept. 11, memories of the tragedy are still fresh in the minds of many Jews. The Jewish Journal caught up with several people in the community and asked what they remember most about this devastating event.

As a mom, it was definitely scary. We were supposed to visit family on the East Coast last year, and we canceled our trip because the thought of having one child in my arms and one in my stomach — I just couldn’t do it.

Laurel Bernt, 34 Homemaker Sherman Oaks

When people came to the mikvah that day, they were just falling apart. It was just before Rosh Hashana, so I had a bunch of people to immerse for preparation. Even after Sept. 11, I read special prayers for people in the mikvah because they were still shattered. When you go the mikvah, it’s the womb of the Jewish people. It’s an immense place of healing.

Penelope Oppenheimer, 50 Administrator of Rabbinical Mikvah Westchester

Dealing with the kids at school, I had to be strong and not show them how I was really feeling. We found that some of the younger kids saw the plane hit the tower on television and thought it was not a replay. They thought that more and more planes were hitting new buildings. Our older children’s response was, “Let’s nuke them.” It was a real learning experience. They watch [Sylvester] Stallone and [James] Bond and think they can save the world. We have to bring them back to reality.

Howard Spike, 59 Director of Education Fairfield School Woodland Hills

I didn’t think this could happen here. Maybe in a third-world country, but not here. I never thought I’d live through a war. I had gotten a few comments at school like, “Damn Jews — look what they’ve done to us.” They think that what’s going on is because of Israel.

Rachel Resnick, 18 College Student Bel Air

I remember this day, because I was swimming in my pool that morning and my friend told me to turn on the television. I was worried, because my brother lives in New York. He was picking up people in a limo in Manhattan. Thank God he’s still alive. I remember how that day my customers didn’t talk too much. They were all scared.

Leo Brezhnev, 54 Barber West Hollywood

It was almost surreal. It was hard to imagine that something so massive and barbaric could happen here. I was working on “Port Charles” at the time and we took that day off. Some of the scripts were rewritten subsequently. I remember one script had to do with bombing a building. I think I’m more aware of my physical surroundings now and I’m looking for a sense of physical security.

Andrew Lee, 51 Television Director Studio City

Sept. 11 was probably the worst day of my life. It made me miss my family and my hometown of New York more than ever. I would have preferred to be in New York and part of the danger, so I could be with my family instead of not knowing what was going on. I felt completely cutoff. I took it more as an attack on my hometown as opposed to an attack on my religion.

Ira Sherak, 32 Animator Brentwood

I was a captain in the American Women’s Volunteer Services during World War II. But Sept. 11 was the worst. My daughter in Boston called at 7 a.m. and told me to turn on the television. I turned it on just as the second plane hit the tower. I thought it was a movie. I worry about my grandchildren and what’s in store for them. I wish I could see things getting better, but I don’t.

Claire Schneider, 89 Gift Shop Manager Sherman Oaks

When I was in Russia, I never felt safe as a Jew because of anti-Semitism. Since I became a U.S. citizen, I got used to being safe and secure. When Sept. 11 happened, I didn’t think it was against the Jews. It was against humankind in general. Being a healing practitioner, I’m trying to bring people’s health to balance. For months, I had to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder in my practice. I still have patients with fears of flying and other anxieties. I think we have a long way to go before we feel safe again, if ever.

Lucy Postolov, 42 Acupuncturist/Herbalist West Los Angeles

Sept. 11 affected me as an Israeli because of the relationship between Israel and the United States. I was not surprised to see terrorism in the United States because it’s a target exactly like Israel. When you see terrorist groups burn the Israeli flag, they also burn the American flag. The message is very clear to me.

Shoham Nicolet, 25 College Student Bel Air