Patriotic ribbons not on the menu

Thursday, September 20, 2001
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Patriotic ribbons not on the menu

Rules are rules. A policy at Snuffer’s restaurants prohibits employees from adorning their uniforms with anything – even red, white and blue ribbons. That rubbed some cheese-fries connoisseurs the wrong way.

Dozens of patrons demanded an explanation. “We’ve gotten e-mails saying ‘Snuffer’s supports bin Laden,'” said owner Pat Snuffer, a Vietnam veteran. “It’s been very hurtful.”

His account: He does not want employees wearing “ragged, dog-eared ribbons.”

“It’s my business, and that’s the way it’s going to be,” he said.

As a patriotic gesture, though, Mr. Snuffer plans to have small American flags embroidered onto employee aprons.

–Joshua Benton

Prayer, solace, patriotism in NY; Crowds find refuge at houses of worship across city, nation

Monday, September 17, 2001
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Prayer, solace, patriotism in NY
Crowds find refuge at houses of worship across city, nation

From Staff Reports

NEW YORK – Only 17 of the 56 regular parishioners at John Street United Methodist Church made it to Sunday’s services.

Some of the missing were probably held up by policemen trying to keep people out of southern Manhattan. Others were forever lost in the World Trade Center’s wreckage, just three blocks away.

The church was the closest to the disaster to hold regular services Sunday. Soloist John Easterlin sang a hymn he had chosen a day before the terror began:

Lord make me an instrument of thy peace; Where there is hatred, let me sow love; … Where there is despair, hope; Where there is darkness, light; Where there is sadness, joy.

“God chose this song for this Sunday, even before this war started,” Mr. Easterlin said. “It’s eerie that it’s so appropriate. I didn’t practice it because I didn’t know if I could get through it twice.”

Without electricity, the wooden church was lighted by handheld candles. Soot blanketed its roof and flew inside whenever a door opened. Armed National Guardsmen in gas masks patrolled the area. Toxic fumes from a nearby blown generator lingered.

Outside, war was everywhere. But inside, there was only peace.

Across New York and the nation, churches served record crowds Sunday. Some were regular worshipers seeking solace. For others, going to church was an unusual event spurred by unusual circumstances.

“It’s the first time in seven years,” said Roger Pacheco, who said he attended Mass at Manhattan’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral because it is a symbol of New York. His 26-year-old cousin, Roland Pacheco, is among the missing.

With volunteers being turned away by some relief agencies, which say they have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of help and supplies, some New Yorkers felt powerless to help in any but a spiritual way.

“We can’t do anything down there,” explained Natalie Parra, 25, also at St. Patrick’s. “So we figured we could pray.”

“This country needs to pray and come together at a time like this,” said Lily Ling, a 32-year-old who attended the John Street services. “It was hard to get here, but even a tragedy like this won’t stop me from going to church.”

At Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist Church, the Rev. Calvin O. Butts III gave a spirited and eloquent sermon, urging 3,000 worshipers to turn to God to manage their fear. A large choir stood behind the pastor, swaying and harmonizing while singing, “The Lord is my strength; whom shall I fear?”

Dr. Butts pointed to the hundreds of firefighters killed at the Trade Center as examples to follow.

“The firemen did not let fear paralyze them,” he said. “The firemen learned to manage their fear to save the lives of their sisters and brothers. Perfect love for humanity cast away their fear. The greatest monument we can give to them is for us to overcome our fear.”

He asked for those in the gallery to call out the names of their missing friends or loved ones, and several did so. Dr. Butts ended the sermon by asking the gallery to join choir members’ voices in a rousing, fast-tempo version of “This Little Light of Mine.”

“In this dark world, we need to have some light shining right now,” he said.

At the Islamic Cultural Center of New York on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, Imam Mohammad Gemeaha reminded worshipers that under Islamic law, it is always wrong to take innocent lives.

“My message was that our religion is a religion of peace, a religion of mercy,” Imam Gemeaha told reporters after the service. “We pray to God to show his mercy and to accept all of the victims into paradise.”

But Muhammad Abulmalik, an imam from Brooklyn who delivered a guest sermon Sunday, criticized military and political leaders and said that U.S. policies toward the Middle East had caused deaths around the world.

At St. Patrick’s, decorated with purple and black funeral bunting, Masses attracted huge crowds throughout the day. Speakers were set up outside so those who couldn’t get in could hear an afternoon Mass delivered by Cardinal Edward Egan, New York’s archbishop.

“In the last week, we have truly seen and experienced the presence of evil in the world,” the Rev. Dominick Dellaporte said at St. Patrick’s. “And we have seen the presence of God in the world.”

St. Patrick’s rector, Monsignor Eugene Clark, urged members of the congregation to attend the thousands of funerals expected around the city. “When we extend our condolences, it accomplishes a great deal,” Monsignor Clark said. “We mustn’t underestimate the value in that.”

Spc. Anthony Philip, an Army National Guardsman dressed in black boots and stiff camouflage, sought solace from the 12-hour shifts he has been working at ground zero since Tuesday.

“I told my sergeant I needed some time to meditate,” Spc. Philip said. “I needed some time to pray for all the victims.”

Staff writers Holly Becka, Terri Langford, Christopher Lee and Juliet Macur in New York and staff writer Joshua Benton in Dallas contributed to this report.

Teens come together for tolerance; Different backgrounds needn’t divide, they demonstrate

Saturday, September 15, 2001
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Teens come together for tolerance
Different backgrounds needn’t divide, they demonstrate

By Joshua Benton
Staff Writer

When the man on the street asked whether he was a Muslim, Mohamed Maye knew to lie.

“I’m an atheist,” he said, then walked away.

Mohamed, 14, didn’t tell his parents about the man he met walking home from North Dallas High School. He feared that they’d make him stay home from school – the place he felt safest.

“At school, everybody gets along,” he said. “It’s, ‘If you’re Muslim, so what? You’re not the one who did it.'”

Mohamed and a group of North Dallas High School students gathered Friday morning in Thanks-Giving Square to offer themselves as an example to the rest of the world: They come from different countries, different faiths and different backgrounds, but they manage to get along.

“It’s only immature people who would get divided by something like this,” he said.

North Dallas High has students from 32 countries, a number that grew by one Thursday with the enrollment of two students from Afghanistan. The school has been honored for its international focus by the Texas Senate and the U.S. Congress. Many of its students come from lands broken by war, and they’ve experienced hatred up close.

“Our students know what it’s like to be discriminated against, and they know what it can do to people,” said principal Lynn Dehart. He estimated there are more than a dozen Muslim students enrolled and many Arab-Americans.

Mohamed first heard of Tuesday’s attacks in gym class. A teacher accidentally turned off a CD player and flipped on a radio that was broadcasting news of the World Trade Center. At first, Mohamed assumed it was a hoax, a ploy by the station to rile up listeners, like the time a DJ said Britney Spears was dead. But a few moments later, he realized it was real.

“I didn’t feel secure anymore,” he said.

Mohamed grew up in Somalia, a country ripped apart in the last decade by rival warlords to the extent that it has no functioning government.

“I came to America to get away from trouble,” he said. “I didn’t think something like that could happen here.”

His parents picked him up from school early Tuesday for a family meeting.

They told him not to tell anyone he was Muslim; they feared that he’d be made a target by people bent on revenge. But at school, he hasn’t felt threatened at all, he said. Others shared his experience.

Sophomore Sabina Celebic came to Dallas from Bosnia a year and a half ago. She saw the attacks unfold from a doctor’s office Tuesday. “Everything that had happened in Bosnia came back to my mind,” she said.

While her blond hair and European features help her avoid some stereotyping, she is also Muslim. She said there’s been no tension among students. “We all hang out together just like we did before,” she said.

At the event downtown Friday, student leaders gave speeches about the importance of tolerance. Several dozen students joined hands in a circle around the square, some closing their eyes and bowing their heads while John Lennon’s “Imagine” played.

“I’ve heard a lot of negative attitudes, but only from adults,” said Yonas Fesseha, a junior whose family is from Eritrea.

Children discover lessons amid tragedy; Week’s events give way to discussions in the classroom

Friday, September 14, 2001
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Children discover lessons amid tragedy
Week’s events give way to discussions in the classroom

By Dan R. Barber and Katie Menzer
Staff Writers

The attack on America has come to the classroom.

In planned and unplanned lessons, teachers and students have used the week’s events as a way of learning.

For some it was geography, for others letter writing. Many just learned about the give and take of emotional discussions.

At his desk in Spring Creek Academy, a private school in Plano, Jared Ostrov was puzzled.

The 12-year-old and his classmates opened their seventh-grade world history books to Thursday’s lesson on Germany and war, what it meant more than 60 years ago. And what it means today.

“I heard they declared war on a country,” Jared said. “But my question is, who are we at war with?”

An unknown enemy’s attack Tuesday, sending two commercial passenger airliners into New York’s World Trade Center, another into the Pentagon near Washington, D.C., and a fourth into a Pennsylvania field, has become part of the curriculum in public and private school classrooms in the area.

A blunt, sobering exchange between Jared and another student Thursday echoed conversations nationwide.

“If you go over and start bombing people, innocent people will die,” said Allison Taylor, 13, as the history class discussed how war would change lives.

“They started it,” Jared replied.

At Meadows Intermediate School in DeSoto, students reviewed the attacks during social studies and reading and language arts classes.

Kitty Hickerson, Meadows’ principal, said the students used maps to locate New York; Washington, D.C.; Pittsburgh; Britain; Pakistan; and Afghanistan.

The tragedy is also helping students learn how to write letters, Mrs. Hickerson said. They will write condolences to President Bush and to New York police officers and firefighters, she said. Most of the letters expressed fear about the possibility of war, she said.

One child suggested that the president hide inside the Statue of Liberty because it is the “safest place in America,” Mrs. Hickerson said.

Chuck Corona, principal of J.J. Pearce High School in Richardson, said students there have talked constantly about the tragedy, but social studies class seemed to be where it was most often used as part of the curriculum.

“They have used it in the classroom to talk about things and ease everybody’s minds, and that was appropriate,” Mr. Corona said. “They handled it very maturely and asked the right questions. I’m proud of them.”

At Lamar High School in Arlington, the students in Barry Wilmoth’s U.S. history class did more than talk about history. They watched it unfold on television.

“I’ve tried to work this into the lesson plans and answer any questions they have,” he said. “When we talk about World War I, World War II or Pearl Harbor, they’ll understand how people felt.”

John Ashton, who teaches English and humanities to sixth-graders and juniors at St. Mark’s School of Texas in North Dallas, said classes normally spent on novels were turned into discussions.

“It was, ‘Put your books away, let’s talk,'” Mr. Ashton said. “There’s a sense in the classroom that, from the start of class to the end, this pressure valve has been released a bit.”

Mr. Ashton said the events affected the age groups differently.

“The older boys have come in willing to talk about the emotional side,” he said. “The sixth-graders want the facts, the specifics of how these things could have happened. They want to solve it.”

The attacks left two other students at Spring Creek Academy wondering what their families might be thinking.

Seniors Hanh Truong and Ha Nguyen, 17-year-old exchange students from Vietnam, spent part of the day Tuesday using the school’s computer to contact home. Their parents did not know how far Dallas was from New York, they said, and family members were worried for their safety.

Although the girls said they were deeply saddened by the events. Neither was surprised at the terrorism.

“Everything can happen in America,” Hanh said.

Staff writers Toya Lynn Stewart, Joshua Benton, Kristine Hughes and
Michael Tate contributed to this report.

Back to work, not back to normal; With heavy hearts, area residents trying to return to routine

Thursday, September 13, 2001
Page 6A

Back to work, not back to normal
With heavy hearts, area residents trying to return to routine

By Joshua Benton
Staff Writer

John Jackson rose before the sun Wednesday, looking for calm waters.

He found them at his usual fishing spot on White Rock Lake. But they couldn’t provide all the solace he sought.

“I couldn’t sleep last night,” said the 74-year-old World War II veteran, who had been awake since 1 a.m. “I couldn’t stop thinking about all those innocent people. It’s so terrible.”

A day after the terror in New York and Washington, much of North Texas reacted as Mr. Jackson did. People tried to go about a normal day’s business.

Students returned to school. Downtown buildings reopened. Friday night football was back on schedule.

But it was clear that life had changed, almost imperceptibly, perhaps irrevocably. Children struggled to understand why so many people were dead, and parents searched for the right words.

Some workers stayed home, and others were evacuated after false bomb threats.

People returned to their routines, but they didn’t return to normal.

“I’m still not believing it,” said Bill Spear, a businessman who attended Mass on Wednesday afternoon at St. Jude’s Chapel downtown.

He went home to pick up his whole family so he could be with them.

“I just wanted them down here so we could all try and gain a little peace,” he said.

The number of people attending Mass and confession at St. Jude’s was triple the usual number. Men and women shook and sobbed uncontrollably.

Workers in downtown skyscrapers in Dallas and Fort Worth felt among the most threatened after the World Trade Center towers were toppled. But for the most part, they arrived at work Wednesday morning wary but ready to resume their lives.

“It’s very quiet,” said Jim Kirke, who works on the 23rd floor of Bank of America Plaza in downtown Dallas and was among those evacuated Tuesday morning as a precaution.

“It doesn’t seem real. It’s like something that you see in the movies, but in the movies people get up and walk away. In real life, a lot of people don’t get up and walk away.”

Scattered police presence Wednesday didn’t go unnoticed by passers-by and workers.

In Dallas, officers were posted outside the entrances to high-rises downtown and all government offices. They evacuated Lincoln Plaza, First Baptist Academy and the YMCA at midday after receiving reports that a suspicious package was left inside a vehicle on Akard Street.

Power was cut to Lincoln Plaza during the evacuation, temporarily stranding three people in an elevator, officials said. The package was eventually found to contain small gifts that a group of men had planned to sell at area hotels, police said.

In Fort Worth, a bomb threat shortly after 9 a.m. forced evacuations of three Tarrant County court buildings. After barricading several streets and moving employees several blocks away, the threat was determined to be a hoax. Workers returned to the buildings about 10:15 a.m.

“I think we handled it a little differently because of what has happened this week,” said Lt. Kent Worley, a spokesman for the Fire Department. “Our response was a little heightened, and I think the public expects that.”

Others reacted in small but noticeable ways.

The Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Fort Worth resumed printing money Wednesday but canceled public tours. Officials said they wanted to minimize the number of nonemployees in the building.

Area schools generally reported normal attendance. Dallas schools are required to alert district officials when daily attendance falls below 90 percent, and none did Wednesday, officials said.

High school sports teams returned to their routines, a day after most games and many practices were canceled. Some volleyball teams played the matches that were postponed Tuesday.

At The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, many visitors found some comfort drawing parallels between the terrorist attack and the Kennedy assassination in 1963.

“People are coming here to deal with their own grief, to remember how resilient our country was after another tragedy,” said Jeff West, the museum’s executive director.

Museum visitors record their ruminations in “memory books” at the end of their visit, and several wrote about trying to adjust after Tuesday’s tragedies.

One tourist wrote about watching the shocking news reports: “Finally, I had to leave the hotel room – try to forget one tragedy by learning the history of another. I’m still numb.”

Some area residents said it was important that the terrorist attacks not be allowed to disrupt events in their lives.

Laura Keith and Sean Weigler long ago scheduled their wedding for Saturday. And though federal restrictions on travel have caused some difficulties, they plan to go ahead with the ceremony.

“It’s hard to know how to feel,” said Ms. Keith, 26, who works for Southwest Airlines. “It’s a tragedy and you’re grieving, but it’s also supposed to be the happiest time of your life.”

She’s concentrating on getting the pastor, two groomsmen and her maid of honor to town from various points in the country.

“At one level, you feel selfish, but canceling the wedding would just let the terrorists win on another level,” she said.

Others, from ministers and rabbis to grocery store clerks, found relief in trying to help people deal with the sense of loss.

Carolyn Thompson manages the bakery at an Albertson’s on McKinney Avenue. She said she has been doing her best to raise customers’ spirits.

“I’ve asked everybody who comes by how they’re doing, and some of them want to talk,” she said.

“One woman didn’t say anything for a moment, then said, ‘I’m very upset. I’m really down.’ Then she kept on shopping.”

Staff writers Laura Heinauer, Connie Piloto, Linda Stewart Ball, Nancy Calaway, Dan R. Barber, Rachel Cohen and Chuck Carlton contributed to this report.

Painful visit: Meeting with Cole commander offers small solace to mother of Texan who died

By Joshua Benton
Staff Writer

Page 1A

ENNIS – Monday was the day Tim Gauna was supposed to come home.

The Navy had scheduled a little shore time for the 21-year-old, time for him to play sandlot baseball, see his family and impress his friends with tales of adventure. He was going to be back for his mother’s birthday.

Instead, Sarah Gauna got a less-welcome visit Sunday. Two men from her son’s ship, the USS Cole, came to this small Ellis County town and tried to do the impossible: comfort her, console her and answer her unanswerable questions.

Seaman Gauna was one of the 17 sailors killed Oct. 12 when suicide bombers attacked the Cole in Yemen.

“I never thought in my wildest dreams that my son would be a hero,” Ms. Gauna said, crying and tightly clutching a photo of her son. “My son is a hero.”

Cmdr. Kirk Lippold, the Cole’s captain, and Master Chief James Parlier are visiting the families of the 17 victims to offer condolences and provide whatever answers they can about the attack. Ms. Gauna was armed with dozens of questions, many about mistakes she believed the commander made that helped make the bombing possible.

When the men arrived at the home of Seaman Gauna’s uncle, James, Ms. Gauna kept them waiting for a few minutes before agreeing to see them. She hugged Master Chief Parlier, who had known her son on board the ship, then moved to the commander.

Cmdr. Lippold reached out to hug her, but she hesitated. After he wrapped his arms around her, she began to cry out: “Why Tim?”

“I’m sorry,” he half-whispered.

Her reply, muffled in his Navy dress blues: “Are you?”

“Yes, I am,” he answered.

Then the Gauna family met in private with Cmdr. Lippold and Master Chief Parlier for about two hours. Ms. Gauna had brought a 4-inch-thick binder of documents about the explosion, with dozens of passages highlighted to remind her of questions to ask. But her tears prevented her from asking many.

In any event, she said, she didn’t expect honest answers. “I told him, ‘You’ll never give me the truth.’ I don’t trust anybody. I don’t trust the government, the Navy people,” she said after the meeting.

Cmdr. Lippold, who left the meeting without comment, has been criticized by the victims’ families and a Navy investigation for failing to carry out security measures before the Cole docked in Yemen, a country linked to terrorist activity. But when the investigation was closed last month by Defense Department officials, Cmdr. Lippold was not disciplined, in part because investigators found he had not been properly informed about the potential threat.

Ms. Gauna is not as generous. “I told him I don’t think he should be a commander of a ship anymore,” she said. “I told him that to his face.”

She first heard from the commander in a phone call shortly after the attack; she was so enraged she hung up on him. He offered to visit her at home, and she found him to be more sorrowful than she had expected.

“We were talking about how he played baseball and the funeral, and he started crying. He asked for a tissue. He said, ‘That’s what makes me cry, when I hear how other people cared about him.'”

Ms. Gauna is still fighting for her son, almost four months after his death. She battles with the Navy to reclaim his personal effects, including a baseball glove and a cross. She battles with the maintenance crew at the local cemetery where her son is buried, when they’re too quick to remove the fresh roses she leaves him every day. She battles with emotions she says only 16 other mothers can understand.

“We try to shut one door, and another one opens,” said James Gauna, Seaman Gauna’s uncle. “And each one gets harder to close.”

Every day, Ms. Gauna visits her son’s grave and reads Bible passages to him. “He tells me, ‘You’re doing good, Mom, you’re doing good,'” she said. “I know now I’m going to heaven to be with him.”

After Sunday’s meeting, the mother and the commander were an inch or two closer to an understanding, if not a truce.

“When he came in, he hugged me, but I couldn’t hug him,” she said. “But when he was leaving, I did hug him. Because he is hurting. Not in the same way we are, but he is hurting.”