Thursday, February 20, 2003

Terror here? Most unafraid


Many Greater Cincinnatians take stock in faith

By Maggie Downs
and Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[photo] Myrt Musch, 90, of Hamilton, a volunteer at Senior Citizens Inc. in downtown Hamilton, said Wednesday she is not concerned about the terror threat warnings.
(Michael Snyder photo)
Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, speaking at the American Red Cross chapter in Cincinnati on Wednesday, told Americans to brace for the worst.

But in the Tristate, while many are concerned about threats of terrorism, they're not changing their lives because of it.

Most aren't even buying duct tape.

•••

Among the thick college textbooks and the stacks of laundry is Devaughan Moore's security blanket - his Bible. It's tucked away on a shelf above his bed, where it can easily be reached.

The 20-year-old business major at Xavier University said the Bible helps him stay strong in the climate of homeland security concerns.

"You can stress yourself out about a lot of that stuff," he said. "I just keep my Bible here, and I pray whenever I need to."

Faith also helps his Kuhlman Hall suitemate, 19-year-old Jason Jones, an information systems major who lives in an attached room. "To tell you the truth, I don't really pay attention to stuff like terrorist threats," Jones said.

"We're lucky in that we're Christian men," he said. "And as Christian men, we believe that when it's your time to go, it's your time."

The two are skeptical about any sort of attack on this area.

"When I go home, I'm on high alert," said Moore, a Washington D.C., native. "But out here? Nah."

"Being in the Midwest, I feel pretty safe," Jones said. "It's like, who would think about Cincinnati?"

At the private Jesuit college, security comes from the familiar faces the men pass each day. "It's such a small university, I've never really been concerned about safety," Moore said. "You recognize people everywhere you go."

•••

Myrt Musch, a 90-year-old widow who volunteers daily at Senior Citizens Inc., a Hamilton gathering spot for older people, said she has taken no action about the terrorism warnings.

"I just leave things in the hands of God," said Musch, a lifelong Hamiltonian who worships at Immanuel Lutheran Church.

Musch said she hadn't seen the news yet about Ridge's Cincinnati visit Wednesday, and she asked a reporter, "How did that meeting go?" She said she intended to learn more about it later.

Standing in front of a large American flag that hangs in the lobby of the senior center at 140 Ross Ave., Musch said she has a grandson in the Marines. But the nature of his mission and his whereabouts are unknown to her, Musch said.

Few of the 100 or so who attend the senior center's weekly dances ever broach the subject of terrorism, she said; they come to socialize and forget their cares. "Some people are nervous," she acknowledged, "but I think the majority of people think: `What's meant to be is meant to be.'"

•••

Tami Carlisle-Ragone, 36, of Crittenden, asked her children if they ever felt threatened by terrorists.

"Hey kids!" she shouted to all seven of them, who range in age from 3 weeks to 13 years. "Are you concerned about terrorists hitting us at home?"

A couple of them were. "Well, I guess they're more concerned than mom," she said.

Though the family has done little to prepare for a possible attack, an older relative has.

"My grandma went out and bought the duct tape and the water," Carlisle-Ragone said. "I think the elderly are a little more concerned than everyone else."

If her family lived elsewhere, safety might be a concern right now, Carlisle-Ragone admitted.

"I'm sure if I lived in New York or a place that I felt was a little more `on the map,' I might be worried," she said. "But my husband, who travels, he's a little more concerned."

Meanwhile, Carlisle-Ragone feels secure in her small town.

"I'm going, `Why do we need duct tape?'"

•••

Miami Valley Christian Academy in Newtown is a colorful kindergarten-through-eighth-grade facility. It values arts, solid academics, God's word - and a good lock.

"We're a very close community," said Principal Dody Staker, 53. "But we don't open the door to anyone."

At MVCA, each staff member is required to know every parent by name and by face.

"That's one of the greatest things we have going for us," Staker said. "So if Mr. So-and-so comes by to pick up a child, we know if he's really Mr. So-and-so."

Such precaution is less of a reaction to the increased threat of terrorism, and more of a way to give students and parents a sense of security, Staker said. Many of these measures were recommendations from a security specialist who visited the school last spring.

"We're not storing any food and we're not masking up any windows," she said. "I think there's just a greater sense of awareness among everyone."

•••

Susan Hull, 39, a married mother of two in Liberty Township, said, "I see a few changes in my life" because of heightened concerns about terrorism.

"I've been praying for our world leaders to have a lot of wisdom," said the tall blonde with hazel eyes, an active member of Hamilton Vineyard Church. Then Hull admitted, "and I've been watching a lot of CNN," breaking into a laugh.

While her husband, Greg, 44, is busy with his law practice and her children are at school, Hull said she crochets, does laundry and plays with the family's three dogs, and, "I can still check in with CNN every day." The TV set sits in an earth-toned, two-story great room in the family's year-old Tudor-style home; the home's open floor plan allows her to see what's on TV from a variety of vantage points.

Hull's children, Jimmy, 10, and Jacqueline, 12, were on their second straight snow day Wednesday with school closed, so they were visiting friends. But Hull said she generally has kept them "closer to me, closer to home" because of the heightened awareness. And Hull said she has been more guarded about letting them go to public places, such as Paramount's Kings Island, without her.

When told about Ridge's suggestion for an emergency family communication plan, Hull said that seems to be sensible, and "it probably will be a discussion at dinner tonight."

•••

Angelo Masannat, 29, owner of the City Diner, a downtown Hamilton eatery that sits in view of the 11-story Government Services Center, served up gyros and other sandwiches from the grill. He paused between ringing up customers at the cash register, adjusted his white baseball cap and said, "What do you mean, what are we doing about terrorism? You mean here in the city? Or what?"

Masannat, a newlywed who lives in West Chester Township, says he didn't go rushing out to buy duct tape or plastic sheeting.

In fact, he has done nothing in response to terrorism concerns except maybe stay more informed. Why?

"In my opinion, they seem to be doing a pretty good job with homeland security. ... You hear the FBI is working like 24 hours a day on this," he said. "It's more secure just about everywhere ... so I think it's pretty safe."

"And Hamilton, Ohio, I don't think it will be a target. I think they would go after the big cities."

E-mail mdowns@enquirer.com and jmorse@enquirer.com




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