Thursday, March 20, 2003

Cheers, sadness in Tristate greet airstrikes

Beginnings of war startle some, relieve others

By Howard Wilkinson
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Sadness, anxiety and cheers swept the Tristate as the first images of America's latest war flickered across television screens Wednesday night.

At the Veterans of Foreign Wars Hall in Bellevue, the normal weeknight crowd of 20 or so fell silent when President Bush spoke. Then they cheered.

"Bomb the hell out of them,'' declared Shane McCoy, 32, of Bellevue.

"I back the president. I think he is doing the right thing. Frankly, I think we should have done it right after 9-11,'' said Dale Austin of Anderson Township, another of the VFW group. "I think we procrastinated too long.''

It was a different scene at the Golf Manor home of Nancy Finley, a U.S. Air Force veteran whose son, Glenn Raibon, is a U.S. Army Ranger serving now in Afghanistan.

"We just put our heads down in our hands,'' Finley said. "What are we getting into? I can support the troops, but I cannot support Bush in this. No way.''

Deanna Carr of Hanover Township in Butler County watched the coverage at home with her 12-year-old son Sean.

"It does scare me; it really does,'' Carr said.

Her son thinks Saddam Hussein is finished.

"I'm not really too scared,'' Sean said. "We've pretty much got the best military in the world and we have a lot of allies with us.''

At the Bigg's store in Forest Fair Mall, employees gathered around a radio to listen to Bush's speech.

"Hussein is a crazy man and he must be stopped,'' said employee Colleen Mallari of Forest Park.

Among those who have opposed a war, there was sadness, and, for some, resignation.

Penelope Welz, 55, a self-employed writer from Winton Place, said her heart is "very heavy. ... I feel I did everything I possibly could. I am at peace with my Maker."

Tim Rodriguez, 29, of downtown, said North Korea is more of a threat than Iraq is.

"North Korea truly has nuclear capabilities and has acknowledged it publicly,'' Rodriguez said. "Bush is just carrying out a public vendetta to complete his daddy's unfinished work.''

His wife, 22-year-old Julia Rodriguez, said the United States should "wage war against Bin Laden, not the people of Iraq. The soldiers of Iraq are just defending the innocent women and children of their homeland. I don't understand what Bush is doing.''

Alberta Baier, 41, a fitness trainer and aerobics instructor from Liberty Township, said she believes the war "needs to be done.'' Her husband, Bill Baier, called it "absolutely necessary. I don't think we should wait until we get attacked again.''

In Fort Thomas, Bob Nienaber, 39, said he was glad it started.

"They need to get him out of there,'' he said. "I have a 10-year-old son and I don't want to worry about him having to go to war against Saddam."

Paula Pemberton, 43, of Ludlow, said the war against Iraq is "a good idea.We need to get that guy out of there,'' she said.

"I think Bush is just trying to finish the job his dad started. But because he is so dangerous, Saddam has got to go.''

Enquirer reporters Patrick Crowley, Kristina Goetz, William Weathers, Sharon Turco and Jim Hannah contributed.

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