Oregon man honors his brother at 9/11 event

Gerry Iken of Prairie City read names of World Trade Center victims, including his brother Michael.

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by Tracy Barry, KGW Staff

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kgw.com

Posted on September 12, 2011 at 3:21 PM

Updated Monday, Sep 12 at 3:56 PM

NEW YORK -- Gerry Iken was determined not to lose his composure as he read out loud, the names of 9/11 victims who died in the World Trade Center towers.

Even as he came to the name of his brother who died on the 84th floor of the South Tower.

"And my brother, Michael Patrick Iken, may we someday learn to live in peace."

The New York native now lives in Prairie City in Eastern Oregon and described his brother to KGW as "one of the most endearing people to walk this earth."  While he was able to stay composed for his brother's name, the same could not be said as families of other victims read statements from the podium.

Special coverage: 9/11 anniversary

Iken was sitting in a tent at the site during the memorial ceremony and said he could not help but cry, especially when young children described their love for deceased relatives.

"It just broke your heart," he said.

How does he deal with the pain of his brother's death?

"You have to bury the hate," Iken said, "you have to look beyond. And you have to keep the positive of a lost life going."

He was joined Sunday by his sister Anne Habeeb.

"I did want to come back to see the memorial," she said, "and to see Michael's name there forever."

Both were also there on the first anniversary. Neither plans to return.

Also there Sunday was an Oregon delegation, repeat visitors from 10 years ago, who went then as tourists to spend money at struggling restaurants and hotels, march in the Columbus Day Parade, boosting the spirits of New Yorkers.

"I came personally to show New York this didn't just happen to them," said Sandra Dodge about her trip with the third Flight for Freedom, "it happened to the whole United States."

The first group of tourists to arrive since 9/11, a thousand Oregonians had flown across the country to spend money at struggling hotels and restaurants, march in the Columbus Day parade and boost the spirits of New Yorkers.

Ten years later, hundreds of them returned to the site of the attack.

"Just to show that we are still all in this together," Jean Strickland said, "to support the people that lost people."

In ten years time, the 16-acre wound of Ground Zero has transformed into a major construction sight. The sacred ground is now home to a memorial, a nearly completed museum and towers rising out of the dust.

It has gone from a war zone to one of the city's fastest-growing neighborhoods.

A lot has changed, but emotional bond between Oregonians and New Yorkers remains strong.

"Here you are, 3,000 miles away and you came here to be with us," New York Firefighter Sal Chillemi told the group. "United, not divided, to show the world that's what the United States is all about."

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