Bushwhacked

Southeast champ Russell Bush breaks the tape at the finish line of the SE 1A-2A-3A cross country championships in Sitka on Sept. 22. Link to this issue's special cross-country championship page for the full story of the Panther boys' region title run. Photo by John Bush

Together Skagwayans raise voices for our torn country

“Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”
— Book of Hebrews
New International Version of The Bible

By JENNIFER COLLINS
Over the last few weeks, Americans have looked to faith for an explanation for events that shattered the world we know.
Faith for the mothers who suddenly don’t have children.
Faith for the children who suddenly don’t have mothers.
Faith that we can brush the salt of dried tears off our cheeks and rise again.
Mourners gathered Sept. 14 to lament, to pray – to find faith in the ashes of the country.
Representatives from four Skagway churches spoke at one gathering during lunch hour. Attendees packed the Assembly of God church.
“We pray, ‘Why us?’” St. Therese’s Catholic Church’s Father Edward Boucher asked. “‘Why the people of New York?’”
No answer was given, rather Boucher prayed that instead of persecuting others, people would respect others.
The gathering took place in response to Gov. Tony Knowles calling Alaskans to join in remembrance of the victims of the terrorist attacks.
“We are one of many at this time,” Assembly of God Pastor Steve Smith said. “We pray at this hour, we will be filled with love, compassion and courage.”
At the service, Smith led attendees in a standing ovation for rescue workers in Skagway as well as those aiding people in New York and Washington, D.C.
“It has touched us how around the world people’s hearts have been moved to show compassion for us,” Smith said.
Presbyterian Pastor Karen Parsons sought explanation for the attacks.
“Paul tells us ‘All things work together for the good of those who love God,’” she said. “May our country rise together as ones who love God.”
Baptist pastor Chris Grooms also spoke at the service.

Cheryl Barger, center, leads Skagway residents and visitors in singing "God Bless America" outside the lirary on Sept. 14. Photo by Jeff Brady

People sang “Amazing Grace,” “My Savior’s Love” and “America the Beautiful.”
Approximately 100 people attended the service, including members of city council, city government, merchants, citizens and tourists.
A candlelight vigil also took place 7 p.m. Sept. 14 at the library, where those gathered sang “God Bless America.”

• A profile of Skagway's new Parsons

WP&YR breaks record, awarded ‘excursion of year’
Company complies with Coast Guard security changes

By JEFF BRADY
The White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad broke all ridership records when it announced that it had carried more than 305,000 passengers through the week ending Sept. 15. During the same week, the WP&YR was named Princess Cruises & Tours’ Skagway Shore Excursion of the Season, an award bestowed on the local shore excursion most popular with cruise passengers.
WP&YR Vice President Gary Danielson says the railroad carried 303,000 passengers in its 2000 season.
“To shatter the previous year’s ridership record and win this prestigious award in the same year is a tremendous honor,” Danielson said. “It is always validating to receive positive feedback not only from a company we admire but also from the very people who ride our train every season. We are humbled by the recognition and will continue to work on improving our customer satisfaction.”
When all the numbers are in, this year’s ridership figures should exceed 317,000. The final numbers will depend on how many people were able to cruise to Skagway at the end of the season, Danielson noted.
Because of nationwide flight restrictions during the three days following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., cruise passengers weren’t able to make many of all their flights to Seattle and Vancouver, where the cruises began. One ship, the Westerdam, cancelled its entire cruise, and the Carnival Spirit, Infinity and Mercury left a day late and decided to skip Skagway on Sept. 16 and 17.
Danielson said the loss of those four ships translated into about $200,000 in lost revenue for the railroad. Ships that were able to arrive early last week were at 50-75 percent capacity, but by week’s end were almost full.
The railroad didn’t have to lay off anyone because of the missed ships and decrease in travelers, he said, but the company did have to make a number of security changes on its docks.
“Security has taken on a new meaning in our country, and the decisions we have to make on the docks are based on what is asked of us by the Coast Guard,” Danielson said.
These changes include:
• Installation of concrete barricades at the entrances to all docks.
• Only cruise line-owned buses are allowed on the docks, and only after a search of the bus.
• Passengers who are embarking on cruises in Skagway now must board the ships with their luggage after it is searched, instead of having the cruise line transfer it directly from the bus to the ship.
Danielson said people need to honor the barricades on the docks, even those on the walkways. However, the railroad will allow winter pedestrian access for locals and Yukoners to tie shrimp pots off the docks (see public notice on p. 10).
Addressing some other issues, Danielson said:
• The railroad did hear the complaints from downtown businesses about not dropping off passengers downtown on four-ship days. But he said there is not much they can to about it. When four ships are in town, and there are trains from each ship at 8:30, 12:30 and 4:30, they can’t allow an extra stop in town to back up the entire day’s operation. They are at the mercy of the ship’s departure schedule, some of which were moved up an hour this year, he said. “Our number one concern has to be our clients,” he said. “We lost as much as anybody at our gift shop” on those days.
• Restoration work on Engine 73 will continue this winter. It is being completely overhauled, and he expects it to be back in service during the first week of June, in time for the first Bennett steam train of the season on June 15, 2002. As for Engine 40, which was leased from the Georgetown, Colo. railroad, no decision has been made yet on its future, he said.
• Service to Carcross will not be restored in 2002. “We have a lot more work that we thought we had to do on the roadbed,” he said. The work is required by Transport Canada.
Overall, it was a productive season, Danielson concluded.
“We had a record year in a time when most businesses in SE and Alaska were just maintaining what they did last year,” he said. “I just want to thank our staff for their hard work in customer service to make sure we were able to improve and allow us to grow.”
He said that a brochure distributor who had been around the state told him that coming into Skagway was like a ray of sunshine compared to other towns in Alaska and the Yukon.
“As a community and a company we were very lucky this year.”

OTHER STORIES:

• 2001 Candidate Forum

• Heard on the Wind

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