REACTING TO THE HORROR
By Ray Linker
Observer Staff Writer
This is the first major event in our lifetime. Its really scary, said Desare McCoy, 15, a sophomore at La Grande High School.
Scary is also the word Charleen King of La Grande used to describe Tuesdays terrorist acts in New York and Washington, D.C.
This is like the Pearl Harbor of terrorism; its so overwhelming, King said. We feel so safe, but this is scary. Its like an illusion. The visuals on TV were overwhelming.
King said, Its surprising that terrorists could shut us down the way they did and that we wouldnt be ready. The attacks were so planned, so coordinated, obviously very synchronized and methodical. Its unbelievable.
Few citizens were stirring outdoors in downtown La Grande early Tuesday morning, but those interviewed in the streets, in restaurants and at La Grande High School expressed similar shock and dismay.
Brook Smith of Island City, mother of four and involved in local Girl Scouts, said, Im really into kids. The first thing I thought about was the families of the passengers in the planes that crashed, their waiting at the airport and then hearing the hijacked planes had been flown into the Trade Center buildings.
People who work in the Pentagon know their jobs require them to be able to face danger. But someone just flying from Boston to Los Angeles doesnt expect their plane to be hijacked. It wasnt even an international flight, Smith said.
And its got to be bad for the airlines people.
The financial effect will be tremendous, too, Smith said.
American is based on economics. By attacking our center of trade rather than the government, they are hurting us most.
Smith wasnt willing to place the blame on any group without knowing more, but she said, If this is Osama bin Laden, this will make our government support Israel even more. It may not be bin Laden, but thats where your mind goes. He has the money to do it.
Wire reports late Tuesday said Taliban rulers had condemned the devastating terrorist attacks and rejected suggestions that bin Laden could be behind them.
The day of infamy was the only topic of conversation at various stores and restaurants around La Grande.
At one service station, employees who had to come to work early hadnt heard of the attacks until customers came in and started talking about the events. Then the workers turned on a small radio and picked up bits of news between waiting on customers.
Its terrible that this could happen in the United States, said Dale Proffitt of La Grande, having coffee with friends at the Smokehouse Restaurant on Adams Avenue.
Terrorists can do more damage than the military. Theyre our biggest threat. I think President Bush will step up and make them accountable, find out who did this and punish them, Proffitt said.
Steve Rasmussen of La Grande, who said he watched early morning TV as the second plane crashed into the Trade Center building and exploded, said, That made me really angry. We need to find those terrorist cells and eliminate them. Im really mad.
Lowell Knopp of La Grande said, Its amazing that terrorists could infiltrate the airlines and so many buildings with such a coordinated attack. It had to have taken a lot of planning.
He wondered how such a big offensive attack could occur without the American intelligence community finding out about it.
The day is one a lot of people wont soon forget, Knopp said.
The aftermath will be so far-reaching. Thousand of people and their families will be trying to make sense of this, this ridiculous situation. It will affect our country for a long time, Knopp said.
A half-dozen people dressed in workout clothes at the Grande Ronde Fitness Center were glued to the TV in the lobby. With grim faces, none wanted to comment on the situation.
Im too mad, said one.
Visitors to the National Guard Armory on 12th Street were greeted at the front door by two men in camouflage dress. They referred all questions to their Salem command center.
La Grande Mayor Colleen Johnson asked all citizens to fly their American flags as a show of support.
City Manager Wes Hare said, Theres not a lot we can do to help, but the city will put out the flags we normally do, and flags at City Hall will fly at half-mast.
City crews began setting up the flags along Adams Avenue Tuesday afternoon.
Of the effect of the incidents on city staff, Hare said Tuesday, Were just trying to make it as normal a day as possible. Were angered, saddened and shocked, but we dont want to give the terrorists the benefit of disrupting our day.