Ten years ago, Jack and Evans Anne Snizik were volunteering as campground hosts in a beautiful spot a long, long way from New York City. There was no TV reception, and sparse radio reception – which ordinarily is part of the charm of the beautiful spot on the southern end of Lake Wenatchee in north-central Washington. But even there, the Sniziks felt what happened on that singular September morning almost immediately. Their daughter called from Spokane as she watched the events on TV.
“I remember my youngest daughter saying, ‘Oh My God, Mom, the towers are falling,’ ” Evans Anne said.
Jack added, “She said, ‘There’s another plane going into the tower’. … It was a shocking moment. It really was.”
“It didn’t take long until everyone in the campground knew about it,” Evans Anne said.
But it was nearly two weeks later, on the morning of Sept. 24, that the Sniziks found something that made them feel even more connected to the people who died that day and the people who lost them, to the network of loss that spanned the whole country. While cleaning up the campsites that morning, they came across a letter, handwritten on a single sheet of notebook paper and weighed down by a candle in glass, decorated in red, white and blue ribbon.
“I lost a very old and dear friend in the NYC attack …” the letter began.
The anonymous letter told of the writer’s friendship with a woman who worked on the 108th floor of the World Trade Center, a woman who had visited Lake Wenatchee State Park in 1999 and who loved it there.
“In her honor, I came here, not to say good-bye, but to remember, always, her deep love of nature and the serenity it brought her,” the letter continued. “I pray she is at peace now and forever.”
Neither the letter-writer nor her friend is identified. The letter asks that whoever found the candle light it in memory of the woman who died.
Those words and that gesture placed the reality of Sept. 11 in the Sniziks’ hands in a way that no phone call or radio report could. And they’ve taken the responsibility of that connection seriously, lighting the small blue candle each year on that date.
“You know, in reading the letter, it was very moving, because we’re on this side of the country and luckily, I guess you’d say, didn’t know anybody affected by it, and this really brought it home,” Evans Anne said. “Each year on 9/11, I light the candle.”
“We still respect her loss and we think about it,” Jack said.
The Sniziks are longtime Spokane residents, retirees who live in a beautiful home overlooking the Little Spokane River. Jack worked for the Safeway store chain for many years, and Evans Anne was a longtime Avon lady; together they raised four children.
Their whole lives, they’ve loved heading out into the woods. First, as a family – “Four kids and a canvas tent, which was heavier than blue blazes,” Jack said. Later, they got a trailer, and later still, a motor home. In their retirement, they’ve volunteered as campground hosts, and done a lot of camping all around the region with fellow members of the Good Sam club. This week, they left town for a trip to Montana.
In September 2001, they were in the midst of a one-month stint as volunteer campground hosts at Lake Wenatchee State Park. They were struck by the way that, even in a place that’s supposedly away from it all, word travels fast these days. Cellphones, NPR, word of mouth – people in a lakeside campground thousands of miles from the World Trade Center were getting real-time reports about what was happening. Everyone was affected.
But finding that letter attached the Sniziks to the event in a very deep, very long-lasting way. Evans Anne still breaks down when she talks about it.
“Even now, I can’t read that letter without crying,” Evans Anne said. “Jack told me this morning, ‘Don’t you start crying.’ ”
As the 10th anniversary of the attack approaches, they wonder if the person – they assume it’s a woman – who wrote the letter might be living somewhere in our region, wondering whether anyone found her note and honored her wishes.
They want her to know that they have.