Monday, October 08, 2001

Tristaters pray, hope for success




By Richelle Thompson
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        On a crisp October Sunday made for apple cider and hay rides, fear rose a notch.

        Strangers huddled around big-screen TVs in Deerfield Township, watching as news unfolded about the military strikes by the United States and Great Britain in Afghanistan.

        Thirty people prayed and talked about their worries at Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church.

        And Sycamore Township Fire Chief B.J. Jetter gave his grandson an extra hug.

        “This type of terror is new, the depth and unpredictablity of it,” said Steve Sunderland, a social work professor at the University of Cincinnati. People are worried about retaliation from the terrorists and feel “there is no place that's safe to go right now.”

        In response to the bombings, Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport added more police and increased scrutiny at the curbs next to the terminals, and local utilities continued a state of high alert.

        Loveland resident Robert Peraza, whose son Robert David Peraza was among the Cantor Fitzgerald employees killed in the World Trade Center attack, praised how President Bush is handling the situation.

        He agrees the United States needed to take some time to respond to the Sept. 11 attack. He also liked that the military response is coupled with humanitarian efforts.

        “President Bush is, in my opinion, bending over backwards to do it right. He's been very methodical and as careful as possible,” Mr. Peraza said.

        “I don't have hate towards those people. It's more a sense of sadness that so many lives were wasted,” Mr. Peraza said. “This is a matter of solving a problem. A worldwide problem. Otherwise, the freedoms we cherish are going to be shattered.”

        Members of Cincinnati's Islamic community said they support efforts to eradicate terrorism but don't want to see any more blood shed.

        “We don't want to see civilians get killed anywhere — whether in Afghanistan or New York or anywhere,” said Majed Dabdoub, president of the Cincinnati Arab American Association. “I wish there were other ways to bring bin Laden to justice.”

        In fighting terrorism, the United States also should scrutinize its role in the Middle East, particularly with Israel and Palestine, said Rick Schwen, of Symmes Township. His wife, Zeinab, is from Palestine.

        “America needs to fight terrorism on all fronts and one of these fronts is by reconsidering its foreign policy,” he said. The government must “look at what has drawn terrorism to America's soil.”

        Mr. Sunderland said he had hoped to avoid military action and weed out the terrorists through intelligence and diplomacy.

        “It seems to be a tremendous show of force but I don't know what the purpose of it is other than to show we're a superpower,” he said. “I don't think large-scale bombing can really do any damage to terrorists.”

        Like many people across the Tristate, Brian Evans expected a military strike. He supports the attack. But he's also scared.

        “We had to take some kind of action, and I'm glad we didn't wait too long,” said Mr. Evans, 29 of Covedale. “But you gotta wonder when it (return attack) is going to come, what it's going to be.”

        Dr. Ed Bridgeman felt a twinge in his gut when he heard about the strike. He anticipates it will fuel more terrorist attacks.

        “Then I considered the alternative, which is not to do anything or do something half-hearted,” said Dr. Bridgeman, a criminal justice professor at the University of Cincinnati's Clermont College. “We have no choice but to deal with them, and that means that you have to take the risk that they'll hit back.”

        Despite the uncertainty of this new type of war, Dr. Bridgeman cautioned on letting fear take hold.

        “The terrorist's greatest weapon is not a bomb or anthrax,” he said. “The terrorists' greatest weapon is our fear and our compliance. That is, after all, what they want. They want to make us afraid, and they want to change our lifestyle.

        “Certainly we'll never return to normal ... but we can't let the terrorists dictate our lives.”

        Enquirer reporters Tim Bonfield, Randy Tucker, Gregory Korte, Cindy Kranz and Patrick Crowley contributed.

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