Photo via Grays Harbour County Sheriffs Office. In a small black trashcan under the nightstand was the previous mornings Daily World a local newspaper that served Grays Harbour and an empty plastic Pepsi cup. Next to it, a crumpled piece of thick white paper, no bigger than six inches wide, that read SUICIDE in block capitals.
The Strange Case of the Man With No Name
In life, he was evasive and strange. In death, he became a 9/11 terrorist, a ghostly apparition and an internet superstar.
On Friday, September 14, 2001, Lyle Stevik arrived at an average motel in a sleepy, nondescript town close to Washington’s Pacific coastline. It was a typical September day: 52 degrees and drizzly. “Welcome. Surf’s Up. Life Is Good,” read the shabby sign outside the entrance to the Lake Quinault Inn, a cheerfully optimistic motto for such an ordinary place.
Stevik, who appeared to be in his twenties, did what countless guests had done before. He grabbed a pen and scribbled his details on the hotel’s registration slip:
Name: Lyle Stevik
Address: 1019 S. Progress Ave.
State: ID … Meridian
Nothing about this was exceptional, especially given the context. Three days earlier and 3,000 miles away, three planes smashed into the World Trade Center and Pentagon, killing 2,996 people, injuring 6,000 and setting off a national security crisis. 9/11 made the history books; in the isolated town of Amanda Park, 9/14 was seriously dull.
In 2001, Lake Quinault Inn was still a family affair: Barbara — affectionately known as Aunt Barb — on front desk duty, was clerk-come-manager; her nephew, Gabe, owned the motel and adjacent store. The Inn, built in the 1960s, with six rooms in the main building and two in an annex, had slid into disrepair. But to the few travelers to stay in this picturesque patch of the Olympic Peninsula, it didn’t matter. The rooms were decent enough, and, at less than $50 per night, they were the cheapest in town.
Aunt Barb gave Lyle the key to room eight in the motel’s annex, and he paid in cash. Behind it, Olympic Mobile RV Park, was a miniature metropolis of trailers, broken cars, and spare tires. Inside, furnishings included a double bed, a dusty carpet, nicotine-stained vinyl curtains, and a glass dressing table — a steal for $43.87.
Lyle returned to the front desk just 60 minutes later — flushed, agitated, disturbed. Apparently, the trailer park was too noisy. He wanted to switch rooms. Even though she had just met him, this second encounter was far more memorable. Lyle avoided eye contact; he was acting weird; he gave Aunt Barb the creeps.
She handed him the key to room five, smack-dab in the middle of the main building, overlooking a tiny car lot. It was just like room eight — the carpet dusty, the curtains stained — but Lyle liked room five. He slept there that night. And the night after.
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