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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Reaction in Storm Lake to devastation

Wednesday, September 12, 2001

The country is still in shock from terrorist attacks that collapsed a national landmark and struck fear in the nation's capitol.

With friends and family working in New York City and Washington, D.C., thousands from across the country were directly affected by the destruction.

However, many, many more, from the youngest child to the nation's oldest citizens, will attempt in the coming weeks and months to comprehend the attacks against America.

In Storm Lake citizens stayed close to their televisions, and high school students at both Storm Lake Public and St. Mary's watched live news coverage as the story unfolded throughout the day.

Local families with relatives and friends anxiously tried calling New York and Washington, D.C., often to find downed phone lines. Even hours after the event, no one could believe the twin towers of the World Trade Center were gone.

Patricia Hampton of Storm Lake was in shock yesterday afternoon as she watched the disaster in a place she used to call home.

"Seeing these images on T.V. this morning were especially shocking to me because I've been on those streets and to try to picture the New York City skyline without those towers... It's a very deep psychological shock that there could be a single moment that would wipe out such a predominant landmark. To see a place so familiar in an ordinary day-to-day way suddenly change so dramatically and so violently... it's difficult to process," she said.

Both she and her husband, James, have family and friends in the New York City and Washington, D.C., areas. James has a brother in Washington, D.C., and Patricia has a cousin who goes to school in New York City.

"We're assuming he's O.K., he's several blocks from the World Trade Center, but we haven't heard anything specific," Patricia said. "All the phone lines to Long Island, where his parents are, are down, which makes it very difficult to get news from family."

Her mother has been acting as a switch board for family members trying to get news, she said.

"It's hard for us to understand how somebody could hate a country enough to do this to so many innocent people," she said.

Patricia said it will be several days before her or her family come out of their shock. "We do feel lucky - as far as we can tell family members are safe and the rescue and support agencies in New York City are functioning just as they're intended."

Even with what is expected to be a massive death toll, Patricia said she hopes the United States does not act rashly in response.

"This could potentially be a trigger for expanded violence in the world and I hope our government is calm enough and reasonable enough to act thoughtfully," she said.

The priority now needs to be on rescue efforts, she said.

Reaction in the schools

Students at the Storm Lake High School and St. Mary's High School watched news coverage throughout the day, and became witnesses to what Storm Lake High School Principal Mike Hanna called "negative history."

"It's something these kids will remember," Hanna said.

Many of the high school students do not have similar incidents to compare yesterday's attacks to. Some of the older faculty at the public high school compared it to the assassination of President Kennedy or the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger, Hanna said.

Rose Davis, principal at St. Mary's, said there has been mixed reactions from upperclassmen there.

"Most of it is unbelief that something like this could happen in our country," she said. "They just wonder what will happen in the months and years to come of those in their age group and for our country, and how we will respond to this and the fear that goes with that."

St. Mary's staff was trying to limit exposure to K-4 students so that family could discuss the incident with their children first.

Larry Parman, assistant superintendent for Storm Lake Public, said teachers did their best to conduct classes throughout the elementaries.

"We're trying to have a day of school, though we know it's far from a normal day, and we are asking our teachers to use good judgment in what they allow kids to watch depending on age (in the elementaries)," he said.

Middle and high schoolers in public school were allowed to watch news coverage and were given an opportunity to discuss it.

There was a K-12 prayer vigil and service at St. Mary's yesterday afternoon. Also, a community meeting was held at Buena Vista University for students, faculty and staff to come together and support one another.

All of Storm Lake Public's counselors were alerted that the incidents could very well affect many in the schools. Throughout the day parents called to check what was happening, and some to inform their children the status of relatives working in New York and Washington, D.C.

"We have 1,900 students and 300 staff members," Parman said. "We can pretty much be assured some have friends or relatives involved on the east coast, so we're just trying to be alert and sensitive to the needs of students and staff members."

At both Storm Lake and St. Mary's parents were allowed to take their children home if they wanted, while security was heightened slightly here.

"We beefed up security in the buildings a little bit, locked some doors we don't normally lock, and have people in the halls," said Hanna.

Several schools called off activities, including South O'Brien which canceled its 7th grade volleyball match here. However, the Storm Lake School District still held its cross country invitational, but not out of disrespect to what has happened.

"Our feeling is terrorism is designed to disrupt as much as possible, so we're trying to maintain as normal of a routine as we can under the circumstances," Parman said.

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