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Ripples are felt across Valley



Published: Tue, September 11, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Some area parents removed their children from schools, and a 911 center was flooded with calls from area residents wanting to know what security measures were being taken locally.

VINDICATOR STAFF REPORT

YOUNGSTOWN -- Area residents and officials were horror-struck this morning as news spread of apparent terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C., and government facilities, even locally, went on alert or closed.

The Youngstown Air Reserve Station in Vienna Township increased its security measures in the wake of the apparent terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

"We aren't on high alert, but we've gone up a notch in security," said Lt. Brent Davis, air reserve station spokesman. "We were in normal, but we brought it up a notch to increase our awareness. It's a low-level security measure, but it's got to start somewhere."

The air base, which has 500 employees there today, is at normal threat condition most days. But with the occurrences on the East Coast, the base has moved its threat condition up one to Alpha, Davis said.

"In Alpha, you've got to be aware of your surroundings," Davis said. "You're seeing if there's anything out of the ordinary going on, and you report it to security."

The highest threat condition is Delta, which Davis said is normally reserved for such hot spots as the Middle East.

Davis said the mood at the air base is near shock.

"It's incredible," he said. "Everyone's glued to the news. We're doing what we're told."

Airport: Next door, Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport, in response to a nationwide call for all planes to land, accommodated unexpected flights this morning.

An American Eagle jet en route from JFK Airport to the Cleveland Municipal Airport was one of the first flights diverted, about 10:30 a.m. today.

A flight attendant on the plane said it was ordered to land at the Vienna Township facility with 28 people aboard, and the passengers were waiting for for buses to transport them to Cleveland.

Three Mathews School District buses were at the airport, though no one had boarded as of late this morning.

A parking lot attendant at a rental car lot said more planes were expected.

Preventive measures: The terrorist attack has heightened awareness of vulnerability and may provide the catalyst to create a Homeland Defense Agency, an idea that has been tossed around for some time, said Walter M. Duzzny, executive director of the Mahoning County Emergency Management Agency.

"If you look at that cloud in lower Manhattan, you know it takes money to support the type of training needed to deal with that kind of disaster," Duzzny said. "We'll now start to see the money flow for training and equipment." Duzzny said local targets of terrorists would be the U.S. District Court in Youngstown, the water source at Meander Reservoir, schools and power companies.

"I hope it doesn't, but this will generate the wannabes, the ones who can say, 'This is what you can do to get attention,' " Duzzny said. "We've got to take these people to task."

Keeping watch: At a Trumbull County government building on North Park Avenue in Warren, employees were clustering around a big-screen TV to watch news of the disaster. There was an atmosphere of shock and disbelief among the 14 people.

"It is unbelievable," said Mark Zigmont, a planner with the Trumbull County planning commission, who had just come out of a routine meeting about 9:30 a.m.

"It makes what we just did seem kind of trivial, doesn't it?" he said.

Upon hearing news of the Pentagon bombing, a secretary, Mitzi Sabella, immediately jumped on the phone to try to get news of her brother, who lives in Virginia and works at the Pentagon. Phone lines were jammed and she was unable to get through.

She was close to tears.

"It's a big, humongous place. I hope it will be all right," she said.

Similar reactions were occurring at the county courthouse and other county offices.

"It's devastating," said Judge W. Wyatt McKay, who along with several attorneys and courthouse personnel spent most of the morning glued to a television set.

"It is very scary," said Miriam Fife, a victim-witness advocate with the Trumbull County prosecutor's office. "With all the security the United States has, I don't understand how this happened."

Downtown Youngstown: The atmosphere at the U.S. Courthouse in downtown Youngstown was similar, said Anthony Traficanti, regional director for U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. of Poland, D-17th, whose main regional office is located there.

"I'm sitting here stunned in amazement," he said. "It's terrible. I can't believe I'm seeing this on TV. Our country is not prepared for this. We have never had this happen on our shores. We are not prepared to handle an internal disaster such as this. We're going to have to change our policies."

Delores Sheck cried, tears streaking down her cheeks, and held her hands to her face.

"My God," whispered Sheck, 20, a senior political science major at Youngstown State University. "My God. My God."

That was the general reaction on campus as the news spread this morning.

YSU trustees were discussing building a new student recreation center when a staff member interrupted the meeting to break the news. The discussions continued momentarily, then trustees agreed to postpone the meeting.

"This is an enormous national tragedy, and I find it difficult to think on these matters before us," Larry Esterly, a YSU trustee, said.

YSU and Kent State University's Trumbull Campus closed at noon but planned to reopen Wednesday morning.

"Incredible," said YSU junior Randy Mott, 20, of Colorado. "I thought it was a joke when I first heard it. My God. I can't believe it."

Linda McDonald, a YSU student who has three small children at home, said she was terrified.

"The first thing I did was call home," she said outside YSU's student center this morning. "I wanted to make sure my kids are all right. I know that sounds kind of silly, but it's just terrifying."

Fielding questions: Tim Gladis, director of Trumbull County 911, said the center has received "about 100 calls" this morning from residents asking if there have been any evacuations and what type of security measures they should be taking.

Gladis also said he was told that all federal buildings in Akron and Cleveland are being closed for the day.

Pupils: At schools throughout the region, pupils huddled around television sets to watch the tragedy.

"Everyone is absolutely shocked," said Kathleen Good, principal of Mary Haddow Elementary School in Youngstown.

Marilyn Mastronarde, principal of Volney Rogers Junior High School on Youngstown's West Side, said she made a general announcement to pupils about the situation.

The parents of one pupil came to the school this morning to remove their child. Mastronarde said the family has a relative who works in the World Trade Center.

"They're terrified," she said. "They haven't been able to reach him."

At Lakeview High School in Cortland, the atmosphere among teachers and pupils was anger and disbelief, said Matthew Chojnacki, schools superintendent.

He likened the attack to Pearl Harbor.

So far this morning, a handful of parents have called and asked to pick up their children from elementary school.

"I think that is overkill, but we have no objections to it," he said.

At Champion High School, principal Thomas Harrison said classroom televisions were turned on after the second plane struck the World Trade Center.

Harrison said he will get on the public-address system late in the morning and ask pupils to pay their respects for the dead.

Also, he will assure pupils not to become concerned because this area of the country is not a target.

Harrison said people will always remember where they were when the attack was initiated, in the same way many recall the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Closures: The federal courthouse in downtown Youngstown was evacuated shortly before 11 a.m., and all Youngstown and Mahoning County government buildings were closed shortly after.

Duzzny said all county offices will be closed at least through today.

"We don't know about tomorrow yet," he said. "We're trying to everyone calmed down, and the best way we can do that is to get everyone home."

The Ohio Legislature canceled its sessions for the rest of the week.

This strike is something that people of this generation will remember forever, said state Rep. John Boccieri of New Middletown, an Air Force reservist who served during the Persian Gulf War.

"When I heard about it, I got that sick feeling like where were you when Pearl Harbor was bombed," he said. "This is extremely significant. Am I concerned this will have a collateral or cascading effect? Absolutely. It's one thing to target the United States military. It's entirely another thing to target innocent women and children."

Boccieri, D-57th, arrived about 10:25 a.m. today in Columbus for House sessions through the week. He turned around for the Mahoning Valley about 30 minutes later, when the legislative sessions were canceled.

Community leaders: The Rev. David Leonard is pastor of First Unitarian Church in Youngstown, which stresses acceptance of different beliefs as long as people share the same values, such as respect for others.

"Clearly the people who did this don't. It's totally unacceptable in that sense," he said.

The Rev. Mr. Leonard said he feared the United States will fly off the handle and bomb someone in retaliation.

"It would be good if we pursued this through the world courts, but we don't even know who did this. Until we know, people are going to assume this was Muslims. And we have to wait to find out."

Husam Rafeedie, president of the Arab Community Center of Youngstown, said he was shaking like a leaf.

"This is a disaster, no doubt about it," Rafeedie said. "God only knows who did it, but this is declaring war here."

Rafeedie cautioned against immediately blaming Muslims, pointing out that they were initially suspected in the Oklahoma City bombings that were the result of Americans.

The Rev. Terry Bolds, pastor of Rising Star Baptist Church in Youngstown, also asked people not jump to conclusions.

The pastor asked for prayers for the injured as well as for God's guidance as to how people should help.

People at Niles Municipal Court monitored television reports of the moment-to-moment details of the carnage.

"I was shocked," said Paul Lawrence, clerk of courts, who learned of the attack shortly after it occurred. "I couldn't believe it when I first heard it and the more I heard, the more unbelievable it became."

Sherri Chalker, head of security at the court and a McDonald police officer, agreed.

"It makes me think of the way security is here and how we have to better it," she said.

Chalker of Niles also worries about the proximity.

"It's too close for comfort," she said.

Her mother and stepfather returned late last night from a conference in New York City and Chalker talked to her this morning. The building where the conference was conducted is right across the street from the World Trade Center.

"She's really breathing a sigh of relief," Chalker said. "She's scared."

Nick Terbovich of Lordstown who was at the court this morning when he heard of attack, worries about terrorism filtering into schools around the country.

"It's just devastating," he said.

North Perk Cafe, downtown Warren, was empty following the news of the attacks this morning with employees clustered around a radio at the front counter.

"It seems like everyone's gone home today," said Holly Zoba, the cafe's owner who moved from Washington, D.C., a year and a half ago.

She's still planning a weekend trip to the nation's capitol this weekend. She doesn't plan to cancel.

"They win if you do that," she said. "But I'm sure I'm not going to go visit the White House."

Others say they're cancelling even local trips.

Glen Wells, a 21-year-old delivery boy at North Perk, said he had just found out about the attacks but that he wasn't surprised.

"I don't know what's going on, but it's all scriptural," he said. "The end of the world is what it's all about."

Nancy McPeak, an employee of the Trumbull County Educational Service Center, said she had just gotten off the phone with her 20-year-old daughter, trying to convince her not to take the risk to drive from her home in Cortland to Kent State University today.

"Our nation is under attack," she said.




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