A.M. Costa Rica
Your daily English-language news source
Place your free classified ad

Click Here
Jo Stuart
About us
These stories were published Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2001
A.M. Costa Rica photo
Police keep guard at the U.S. Embassy in San José while U.S. Flag flies at half-staff
Costa Rica just waits and watches 
By Jay Brodell
A.M. Costa Rica editor

U.S. and Canadian citizens glued themselves to the television Tuesday as historic events unfolded in the United States.

They felt anger, uncertainty and impotence, as did all of Costa Rica.

The airplane attacks on the New York World Trade Center and a similar attack on the Pentagon, the center of U.S. military might, caused ripples here.

When the United States shut down air travel until at least noon today, some flights from Latin America were detoured to Juan Santamaría Airport here. A handful of Latin flights were permitted to land at their destinations in the United States even after the ban on flight was issued because they were low on fuel. A few San José-U.S. flights arrived there Tuesday because they left here before the drama began to unfold at 6:45 a.m. San José time.

The U.S. Embassy in the western San José district of Pavas issued a first warning shortly before 11 a.m. The notice said that security had been increased and that visa services had been suspended but services still were available for U.S. citizens. Later the embassy said visa services would be suspended today, too, and asked U.S. citizens to take reasonable precautions.

Transit police and Fuera Publica officers blocked off the area around the embassy for two to three blocks in each direction with tow trucks. Traffic was rerouted to side streets. 

The embassy flag flew at half-staff in mourning for the victims of the attacks.

Costa Rican President Miguel Angel Rodrígues expressed his condolences and condemned the terrorist attack. He gave instructions to Rogelio Ramos, Costa Rican minister of security to offer all means of protection to the embassy, according to a statement from his office.

Through his office, Rodríguez expressed his solidarity with North Americans and President George Bush.

At the U.S. Embassy, Peter Brennan, counselor for public affairs said that workers there are getting many calls from American citizens, mostly trying to find out what special precautions they should take, and asking if the embassy has any additional information from the U.S. 

"We are reiterating to them that we have no evidence of any specific threats in Costa Rica, but that at this time all Americans and American institutions should remain alert to any strange or suspicious activities around U.S.-related institutions or gatherings," Brennan said.

Ryan Piercy, executive director of the Association of Residents of Costa Rica, said his group received a lot of calls from foreigners Tuesday, and most were seeking more detailed information that was available on television.

A particularly emotional meeting was held by Republicans Abroad. Susan Tessem, organizational president, said she had thought a long time about canceling the noon meeting in the Hotel Meliá Confort Corobicí in Sabana. But then she decided "to go ahead with it. We would hold fast to our principles . . . and not give them any satisfaction," she said later. 

One member, Shirley Amack, returned home to find an e-mail from her granddaughter who survived just two blocks from the World Trade Center. (See separate story)

The International Vineyard Christian Fellowship called a special day and night prayer vigil for 

More photos and news, BELOW

members of the American community at a private home in Cristal. Colin Benner, pastor, said that among those who attended was a group about to return to Washington State whose flight was cancelled.

One of the members of the congregation, Annie Hamilton, has a brother-in-law and a cousin who work in the World Trade Center, he said. When she managed to contact family members she discovered that the brother-in-law had decided not to go to a meeting Tuesday and was not at work. The cousin, outside the building and about to enter when the first plane crashed, was spared, said Benner.

The concerns were not limited to the United States. Canada shut down all airports, with the exception of those international flights already in the air which had been diverted from landing in the United States, and joined other countries in evacuating large metropolitan buildings, including the CN Tower in Toronto, according to an A.M. Costa Rica reader.

Jerry Ledin, president of Democrats Abroad, expressed his full support for the U.S.  administration in a statement:

"It is incomprehensible that a disastrous attack of this magnitude could have been so carefully funded, planned and implemented in an apparent vacuum of successful terrorist  secrecy," said Ledin, adding:

"We give our complete support to the President, the Congress, other national leaders and the agencies of the U.S government in thoroughly resolving this crime and forever preserving our freedom and restoring our sense of national safety." (see separate story for full statement.)

More than 130 Costa Ricans, both here and in the United States, took advantage of a message posting service offered by the Web page of La Nación, a major Spanish-language daily. Readers of the publication posted their thoughts or sought news from family members in the stricken areas.

One called the day "Black Tuesday," and another cited the alleged predictions of Middle Aged mystic Nostradamus. One announced the beginning of World War III, while another wrote that Israel and the United States must take part of the blame for the attack because of the treatment of non-Jews in the Middle East.

The newspaper continued to update its Web page throughout the day, and quickly added photographs of the burning twin towers.

A.M. Costa Rica also updated its Tuesday Web page with a bulletin on the attack, with the U.S.  Embassy statement and with a writer's eye-witness account of the collapse of the towers. (reprinted today)

At the Hotel Del Rey, a center for U.S. tourism, the mood was quiet as vacationers, mostly male, watched television and wondered what was taking place near their homes.

They will have to wait awhile because even in the United States, the full impact still is hidden. Reports last night said that more than 250 firefighters and 78 policemen were missing and presumed dead in the rubble of the 1,350-foot World Trade Center towers. Authorities keep less track of civilians, so the death toll, although obviously massive, is not even yet a statistic.

The grim chore of linking names to the statistical data will continue for months. And it may take that long for the full impact to be determined here in Costa Rica.

Credit Eric Gundersen and the National Security News Service
Firemen continue to hose down the section of the Pentagon hit with an airliner Tuesday
Where to donate blood?
A reader wants to help organize a program to donate blood to help the injured in the United States. But Tom Hoy of Heredia still doesn't know whom to call. He said he tried the U.S. Embassy. Then he contacted newspapers, hoping that some local hospital would draw the blood for shipment. 

"The best I got was they would take my number. The Tico Times suggested calling the CAJA and the Health Ministry. I attempted it, but was told to call back tomorrow." said Hoy.

"Would anyone here in this forum be willing to help with suggestions? I know Costa Rica is a small country but there are a lot of us residents here who could donate. . . ,"  he said.  Those interested can contact Hoy at AM/PM Investigations Int'l (506) 237-6273  or (506)269-8713.  E-mail: TOMPIAM001@aol.com

A.M. Costa Rica photo
Traffic police maintain vigil at the U.S. Embassy
A young woman writes from near ground zero
Jessica Perez, 18, is the granddaughter of long-time resident Shirley Amack. Jessica, who was born here, was near ground zero Tuesday morning attending classes in New York. 

This is most of what she wrote to her mother, Loy Amack de Perez, and her grandmother at the height of the disaster. Her father is Juan Manuel Perez Echeverría, a Costa Rican.  The parents are now living in Ecuador.

Hi Mama.

I can't get through to anyone on the phone and took this opportunity to come upstairs and write to you. 

I am shaking right now. Mom. It was so scary. All of a sudden we heard another explosion and we weren't sure if it was another bomb or what and all of a sudden we look out our window and there is a huge  cloud of debris covering the hundreds of people running down the streets. And we couldn't 

see out our window cuz it was covered in black smoke. And people in the building starting running and crying, and there were people coming into our building covered with ashes. 

What we heard was the twin towers colliding (they are located two blocks away from me) but we werent sure at the moment what it was and I thought for sure we were dead or something. 

We can't leave our building right now, we are waiting for the national guard to show up to tell us what to do. I was so scared mom. 

And just to think that I walk around the World Trade Center all the time and I'm just so greatful that I didn't have a morning class today.

Anyhow, right now I am okay. . . .


Republican and Democratic leaders stress future
From Susan Tessem, chairman, Republicans Abroad of Costa Rica:

I am profoundly shocked and saddened in the inhumanity of madmen and cowards. 

Their plan and their manner of attack was far beyond my capacity to realize how truly evil some people can be.

The United States has much too often been criticized for meddling in other country's political, economic and military business, even when our presence was requested, of being criticized as being the "world's police" and enacting unfair economic and social policies when human rights issues became a high priority.

Reality has now hit home. 

We must hold on to the enlightened principles of humanity we hold so dear, join with like-minded member nations who hold the same high standard of behavior and create or reinvent the way we deal with the destructive and useless evil that unjustly prevailed today.

I ask God to bless those and the families of those who were lost or injured in the attack, to bless and guide our leaders as they make the difficult decisions before them for the goodwill of the United States of America and our world community.

This is from Jerry Ledin, president of Democrats Abroad of Costa Rica:

On behalf of the members and friends of Democrats Abroad of Costa Rica, we express our support and prayers to the many victims and to their loved ones in this vicious attack on our people in travel, in New York and in Washington DC. We support the tremendous human efforts now taking place to save lives of those missing and injured and to guide and counsel those surviving.  I am certain we as yet don't know the full impact of this human devastation and the loss of innocent life.

It is incomprehensible that a disastrous  attack of this magnitude could have been so carefully funded, planned and implemented in an apparent vacuum of  successful terrorist  secrecy.  We give our complete support to the President, the Congress, other national leaders and the agencies of the U.S government in thoroughly resolving this crime and forever preserving our freedom and restoring our sense of national safety.

Many in our group are communicating with and supporting each other right now; the very timely statement from the U.S. Embassy has been widely distributed, and thankfully both Spanish and English television and Internet coverage have been massive all day.  I've had many appreciated calls and e-mails from U.S.,  international and Costa Rican friends and associates expressing their concern and prayers about what has happened to our country.

A report from the scene

By Robin O'Brien
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

(First published Tuesday morning)
A quick report from the 12th floor of an office building in Jersey City, directly across the river from lower Manhattan:

I just watched the second tower of the World Trade Center collapse.  The first imploded into a cataclysmic cloud that quickly enveloped lower Manhattan.  The ferries scurried from the piers as we watched in disbelief.  Just as the smoke was clearing, Tower 2 just disintegrated, I-beams flying like matchsticks, an even greater cloud rushing out into the river, obscuring the downtown once more.

On the street below a crowd is gathered, a throng of anxious faces.  I waded through the crowd as I came up from the PATH (the subway that links Manhattan and North Jersey).  Many are on cellphones, most in vain. The circuits are overloaded.  The buildings here contain satellite offices for companies based right across the river, 

some in the very buildings that until 2 hours ago dominated the Manhattan skyline.

I was on one of the last trains out of the city. Everything is now sealed off.  We wait, wondering where the next strike will come from, worrying about those we know and love.

As others hurry by, two people, 12 stories below, are locked in the longest embrace I remember.  I watched them run toward each other before they connected. I've called my wife and Dad, I've emailed my friends (many of whom are in Washington, DC.  I pray that they're OK).

Now, we wait, and watch.  It's a helpless, helpless feeling.  Most folks here are cried out now.  Some are talking in low, incredulous voices, trying to make sense of what appears to be a coordinated, devastating, deliberate attack.  The radio dominates the hushed room of cubicles and offices.  We'll probably be here for some hours yet;  the bridges and trains into the city are closed, all air traffic in the country is grounded, the roads are clogged with people trying to get back to home base.

 Hollywood meets Manhattan.  What a terrible day.

David had answer to today's terrorism
By Colin Benner, pastor
International Vineyard Christian Fellowship

The sheer obscenity of yesterday's multiple attacks on the United States is overwhelming. The devastation caused to so many families who have lost loved ones is staggering. 

One of the ongoing outcomes of this wanton destruction is in the heightened fear that has spread throughout much of the world. Tony Blair, the prime minister of England, said  this mass destruction is the new terror of the world. This is very true. 

As the news of this unprecedented attack spread across America and around the world, the terror spread. Everyone who had friends or family who worked in or near the World Trade Center or who were travelling by air raced to get news. 

How can you find an appropriate response to the numbing and surreal images from the television? How can you not be overwhelmed by either fear or anger both of which are highly justified?

The reality of the presence of God in the middle of our troubles is far more than religious rhetoric. It is not the stuff of ceremonies and rituals; it can be the difference giving in to the terror or finding strength and peace. God says that he reveals himself to those who seek him and gives his peace to those who ask. This is a good day to ask.

A personal view

David, a songwriter who became a king, has an interesting perspective in one of his songs. David knew trouble and was writing in the middle of his own national crisis. He said 

"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. 

{2} Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, 

{3} though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. 

{5} God is within her, she will not fall; 

{7} The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress." 

(Psalm 46:1-7 NIV) 

The reality of the presence of God in the middle of our troubles is far more than religious rhetoric. It is not the stuff of ceremonies and rituals; it can be the difference beween giving in to the terror or finding strength and peace. God says that he reveals himself to those who seek him and gives his peace to those who ask. This is a good day to ask.

What we published this week: Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Earlier