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MAHONING VALLEY Faith, defiance help overcome fear of flying



Published: Wed, September 19, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Terrorism won't dictate this couple's lives.

By ROGER G. SMITH

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Darlene Underwood admits that, at first, she was a little scared about getting on a plane Monday after what happened last week.

But then the North Side resident and minister at Mount Calvary Pentecostal Church spent a day thinking about the conference in Dallas.

She and her husband, Emmett, a church board member, planned the trip months ago. They were going for a good reason. People needed them there and to hear what they had to say, Underwood said.

Her faith took over. She no longer had any qualms about the flight that started at Akron-Canton Regional Airport.

"I'm going to give God all the faith he requires. We're very confident everything will be fine," she said. "Terrorism can't dictate my life."

The Underwoods are among many area residents who travel agencies say are defying the notion of cowing to terrorism. Instead, they're heading to the airport.

Little has changed: The Underwoods did little differently than when they usually fly.

Packing remained the same, and they took one carry-on bag each, as usual. Family has an itinerary and ways to reach them in an emergency.

Time might be the only concession. The couple gave themselves two hours at the airport before departure instead of an hour.

It probably wasn't even necessary, at least on this day.

Security asked more questions than usual about what they were carrying. Beyond that, little was different, Underwood reported after reaching their destination. Their bags weren't searched any more closely than usual.

That gave her an uneasy feeling.

"I thought, 'gee, they [terrorists] could still get through,'" she said.

The couple changed planes in Cincinnati and Atlanta. They didn't notice much different, such as longer lines, except for the atmosphere inside the airports.

Attitudes were subdued. Terminals were eerily quiet because there were fewer travelers than usual.

"There weren't very many people at all," Underwood said.

One security change increased convenience. On arrival in Dallas, the pilot told passengers that their bags were on a conveyer belt next to the gate for security reasons.

Emotional reaction: The tragedy hit the Underwood family as hard as any, she said. Like most of us, she can't fathom the hate that would drive people to such extremes.

"I think I cried all day Tuesday," she said. "I couldn't get a grip on [the hate]. God, that hurts. It hurts. It hurts."

Nonetheless, an unseen enemy won't deter the Underwoods from their church work, even when that means flying.

"They will not conquer me with terror," she said of terrorists. "I refuse to bow down. I won't let them stop me."

rgsmith@vindy.com




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