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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, October 23, 2001

The September 11th attack
New York, Pentagon showered with aloha

By Dan Nakaso
Advertiser Staff Writer

Sherwin Pang packed the 80-yard-long lei and 10-by-15-foot hand-painted American flag made by the students of Moanalua High School, and shipped them to the Pentagon and mayor of New York City with little idea of their ultimate destination.

Among Hawai'i residents sending gifts to New York and Washington were students at Assets School, who made a paper lei with messages of support. It was sent to New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

Advertiser library photo • Sept. 19, 2001

"Even if we don't get any response back, that wasn't the aim," said Pang, the school's student activities coordinator. "The main goal was to let the students show their concern and sympathy."

All over the state, people expressed their grief and support. Students at the Assets School on O'ahu, for example, made a giant paper lei inscribed with messages of support to send to New York.

Hawai'i's shipments of banners, posters and lei made by school children, church groups and everyday folks apparently are touching the people of New York and the Pentagon, targets of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Officials say the gifts probably have blended with the thousands of quilts and flags and other good wishes from around the world now lining the walls of the Pentagon and New York City's parks, buildings and street poles.

Some of the addresses bore little more than "Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, New York, New York" or "The Pentagon." But U.S. Postal Service officials insist every package has been delivered.

The Pentagon has 17 miles of corridors, and sometimes it seems that nearly every inch of empty space is filled with oversized messages from around the world, said Pentagon spokesman Maj. Dan Stoneking.

The prayers and hopes mingle with portraits of war heroes and depictions of military battles. There are so many posters and banners that no one has found time to count them all, Stoneking said.

"All I can say is that we're not in short supply. I wish people could walk into the building and take a look at all of it," he said. "It's really been a great boost to the people working in the Pentagon to see paintings, leis and cards of all different sizes."

Giuliani's office could not immediately say how the banners, quilts and lei were being distributed. The office continues to deal with more pressing issues since the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, a spokesman said. Fire department officials also said they could not immediately track the gifts that have come to their department. But an unofficial network of agencies has been distributing many of them.

"It's all pretty ad hoc," said Joanne King of the Queens Borough Public Library, which ended up with batches of cards made by children in England addressed simply to "The Children of New York."

"I'm not really sure how they all ended up here," King said.

City parks, public buildings, fire stations and street corners have become a collage of oversized cards and banners from out of town, along with home-grown memorials and shrines to the victims, King said.

"It's all really very touching," she said.

One thousand handmade cranes from the children of Albany, N.Y., somehow ended up at the New York Public Library's Donnell Library Center in Manhattan. The cranes hang in the library's central children's room.

Recently the Donnell Library Center also received a batch of braided bracelets "from children somewhere," said Caroline Oyama of the New York Public Library system. "People from all over the world are sending things to New York that are ending up all over town. It's very, very moving." Smaller individual cards line the cast-iron railing around the main library on 42nd Street.

Inga Kelly, the senior class adviser at Moanalua, helped push the idea for students to design and construct the projects, believing some lost perspective after the terrorist attacks. Many students were more upset that homecoming festivities were put on hold — along with every other extracurricular activity throughout the Department of Education — after Sept. 11.

"We needed to help the students focus some of their attention on what was really important," Kelly said.

The school of nearly 2,000 students was asked to write thoughts and condolences on paper flowers, which were connected to form a lei. When it was laid out on the school football field, the lei stretched almost from one goal line to the other, Kelly said.

The junior class designed an American flag made of felt. The senior class painted another 10-by-15-foot flag.

When they were done, Kelly said, the seniors gained a greater sense of perspective. Their new attitude went along with the message they painted under the flag.

It read, "United We Stand With Aloha."

Reach Dan Nakaso at dnakaso@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8085.