Four Months Before 9/11, Terrorism Struck the UW When Arsonists Burned down Parts of the Center for Urban Horticulture. Today a new Center is About to Rise From the Ashes. By Beth Luce.

President Richard L. McCormick declared that "self-appointed vigilantes" would not deter the quest for knowledge, and that the facility would be rebuilt. Newspaper editorials expressed outrage. Legislators promised funds to rebuild. And environmental groups denounced the destruction.

"President McCormick made it clear that the UW won't tolerate this kind of attack on its faculty and the general principle of academic freedom," says Bradshaw, who was impressed with the strong community support. Reichard estimates that as much as 5 percent of her things might still be lost."There was a similar kind of thing after 9/11. Adversity tells you what people are made of. This is a good example of the stern stuff that Seattleites are made of. I'm really proud of the University, the Legislature and the community," he says.

But the hard work of recovery came down to the people who work at CUH. "It was just utter chaos for months," Reichard says. "That's what people don't realize. They still say to me, 'Is everything back to normal?' Well, no. I still don't know where everything is." Reichard estimates that as much as 5 percent of her things might still be lost.

She did manage to save her extra-large vertical filing cabinet and all its contents. When she opens it and pulls out a file, though, a smoky odor emanates. The sooty dust that covers every file smudges her fingers.

Hinckley shows visitors some of his souvenirs: a page of slides, some melted into their plastic pockets, others blackened by smoke. A book that cost about $85, its pages bulging and crinkly and sprouting pink and yellow mold.

Still, all is not lost. Both Reichard and Hinckley say they were able to salvage more than they expected, including the hard drives from their computers.

They still say to me, 'Is everything back to normal?' Well, no. I still don't know where everything is.Reichard lost a significant chunk of the world's population of a plant that she and colleagues are trying to save from extinction, the showy stickseed, a relative of the forget-me-not. "It's very rare. It's only found in one location in the north Cascades," she says. A few weeks before the fire, staff member Laura Zybas and Greg Peterson, a volunteer, took 100 cuttings of stem tissue from the existing population and brought them back to the CUH to culture them. The heat, smoke and debris from the fire destroyed all but seven, setting the program back an entire year.

No one lost as many physical possessions as Bradshaw, whose office was a blackened shell. His 22-year collection of resource books, personal items and artwork was incinerated. But, speaking in his new lab, away from the original site, Bradshaw is struck by the irony that the attack-meant for him-has affected him the least. His computer files were backed up in a secure location, so he lost very little of his work.

"None of my data were lost. None of my seeds or DNA stocks or plants-none of that was lost. But some of my colleagues lost huge collections of slides they use in teaching, or they lost living plant material-irreplaceable things," he says.

He even feels survivor's guilt because his situation has improved since the fire. "Whereas, for all my colleagues at the center, their lives are immensely worse than they were before," he notes.

It's a miracle that nobody was killed. It's just a matter of time.From Hinckley's interim office, a cramped 7-by-11-foot space in the greenhouse, he surmises an unseen cost, as well. "We've been given an extra workload. There's your normal workload you're expected to do at the UW, but now you have a recovery load, too," he says. Additional tasks for faculty and staff include helping with the redesign of the building, which will employ sustainable features, and raising funds for the building. "It has turned out to be a lot of work," Hinckley notes.

Originally up for tenure last year, Reichard's deadline to turn in her tenure packet was extended a year. "What I really lost was time," she says. "It wasn't until this summer, honestly, that I felt like I was back to the point I was on May 20, 2001."

But despite the recovery, staff are still jumpy. "For those people who say no one's ever been killed in an ELF action, all I can say is you should have seen those firefighters standing on the metal roof, trying to ventilate the roof and put the fire out, with fire coming out the holes," Bradshaw says. "It's a miracle that nobody was killed. It's just a matter of time."

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