Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

September 9, 2013

Some 9/11 closure comes with words

Barry Porterfield
Pauls Valley Democrat

bporterfield@pvdemocrat.com — A few simple but reassuring words from a book author appears to have brought a bit of peace to a former Pauls Valley educator who lost a good friend back when the tragic 9/11 attacks shocked the world.

The comfort felt by Steve Jarman comes from a letter he received and how it relates to a former colleague who was a passenger in one of the planes crashed by terrorists on that horrific day back on Sept. 11, 2011.

“It hit close to home,” Jarman said the loss of Hilda Taylor all those years ago.

“I had lost a true friend and colleague.”

Taylor had grown up in the Republic of Sierra Leone in a western portion of Africa.

To escape a bloody civil war there at the time, she and her family came to the U.S., where she continued her work as a teacher in Washington, D.C.

They met in the summer of 1998 during a workshop for the JASON Project, a distance learning program for students all over the world.

The workshop was held in the Amazonian rainforest in Peru.

Three years later one of Taylor’s sixth grade students, Bernard Brown III, was among the three finalists in a national geography bee.

Both Taylor and Brown were in a plane headed for the national contest when it was overtaken by terrorists and flown into the Pentagon building on that fateful 9/11 day.

During a relaxed conversation this week Jarman said he did have his personal struggles over the years dealing with the loss of Taylor.

As he put it — there had been no closure for him.

Later came the military operation that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden, the man targeted for leading the planning for the deadly 9/11 attacks.

Not using his real name, Mark Owen wrote a book called “No Easy Day.” Owen was one member of the team that went into the bin Laden compound during the operation.

After reading the book last fall, Jarman decided there was something he could do.

“After I read the book I wrote him a letter,” Jarman said about the author. “First of all I wanted to thank him and the team for the work they did that night.

“I then told him about Hilda and Bernard. I told him how she worked to bring her family to the states,” he said.

“I told him the work you guys did that night in Pakistan brought closure to thousands of people, including me.”

Earlier this year Jarman received his own letter, this one from the book’s author.

“He said it was my one simple letter that proved to him that he had done the right thing,” Jarman said, referring to the author’s initial hesitation to write a book and then get it published.

It’s clear Jarman is grateful for finally receiving a sense of closure.

He’s also grateful for the JASON Project itself.

Without it Jarman never would have met people like Taylor or been a part of a highly successful educational program over the years that matched students up with materials and simulcasts for expeditions all over the world, allowing them to experience the projects without having to leave home.

Jarman and Floyd Johnson were the former local teachers who brought many of the projects to Pauls Valley students for a number of years.

The project also played a big part in Taylor’s desire to someday see the Amazon River for herself, which happened during the ‘98 workshop where Jarman met her.

“The JASON Project made that possible for her,” Jarman said.

“It has made a lot of things possible for a lot people, most importantly for students.”