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Local reaction to terror alerts is mixed

May 28, 2002

From staff reports

Tri-State area residents voiced mixed reactions Monday about the U.S. government's frequent warnings of possible terrorist activity.

Some residents said the warnings make them feel confident the government is on top of the situation. Others said the constant warnings breed a dangerous kind of fear.

Still other residents said the warnings of more terrorist attacks are alarming but not surprising.

"It's probably inevitable. Those people really hate us," said Stanley Mitchell, 59, of Hancock.

Although the U.S. has been spared additional attacks on American soil since Sept. 11, 2001, Mitchell, a military veteran, warned against complacency.

"It's still a pretty real threat," he said.

Guy Canby, 45, of Martinsburg, W.Va., said he pays attention when the government issues the warnings. Before the Sept. 11 attacks occurred, Canby said, he felt America was being too nonchalant about possible terrorism violence in the country.

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Canby said his wife has been wanting to visit some of the shopping malls near Washington but he doesn't feel comfortable doing it.

"I don't know, I'm a little hesitant," Canby said.

William Link, 72 of Waynesboro, Pa., said he has mixed feelings about the terrorist warnings.

"I don't know what's straight and what isn't," he said.

Link said he was caught up in the feelings of the day last week when his cruise ship docked in New York Harbor. Taxi cabs were not allowed to enter the area because of new threats, he said.

"I had to walk 10 blocks with luggage to Penn Station," he said.

Daniel Starliper, 42, of Martinsburg, said he was not familiar with many of the warnings because he has not had much time to watch the television.

"As long as the president is doing the job, I guess we don't have anything to worry about," Starliper said.

Amanda Slaubaugh of Hagerstown respects the government for keeping citizens informed, she said.

"I think they're doing the best they possibly can," said Slaubaugh, 23.

Jim Mills of Hagerstown trusts the validity of the government's warnings.

"I think they are legitimate," said Mills, 36. "I also think there's a lot they're not telling us."

Former U.S. Marine Philip Stotelmyer, 69, of Boonsboro says the more he learns about the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the more he believes that "anything is possible," he said.

Gerald Snedeker, 83, a World War II veteran from Chambersburg, Pa., thinks the country is doing all it can to protect itself from more terrorist attacks.

"I know that we'll come out of this OK," he said. "We came out of World War II and I grew up in the Depression and we came out of that.

"We're not going to let it (the country) go."

Although the government might have an obligation to inform the public about such findings and the potential for more terrorism, the information likely makes a bad situation even worse, Hagerstown resident Richard Clem said.

The "widespread fear" sparked by repeated government warnings of possible attacks can have a devastating economic impact, said Clem, 62. U.S. consumers will sharply curb their spending habits out of fear of further attacks.

"I don't know the answer," Clem said. "I put my faith and trust in the Lord."

Prayer is one way Jeremy Bishop of Hagerstown responds to government warnings of more terrorist attacks, he said.

"It worries me but I try not to think too much about it," said Jeremy, 15. "I pray that it's not going to happen again."

Jean Black, 61, of Chambersburg, said, "I think something's going to happen sooner or later. We have to be prepared and we have to leave things in God's hands."

Susan Cline, 53, of Chambersburg, thinks the government is doing all it can to protect Americans.

"Some of the threats are founded and some are not," she said. "All we can do is to keep vigilant and keep living."

Jordan Hullinger, 15, of Hagerstown said the frequent government warnings keep the threat of terrorism fresh in his mind. But he tries not to let fear disrupt his life.

"You've always got to think about it but you have to keep doing what you're doing," Jordan said.

Jennifer Sanders agreed that it's important to try to lead a normal life despite the threat of more terrorism, but that gets more difficult with each additional warning, she said.

"It just gets overwhelming," said Sanders, 28, of Hagerstown. "I don't know what to believe. I don't want to live in fear and I don't want to live in denial. I guess it's just important to make every day count."

No matter how many warnings he hears, Korean War veteran John Grove of Hagerstown won't let terrorists inspire fear in his life.

"Those terrorists don't bother me one bit. Not one bit," said Grove, 70. "I have no respect for them. Today we're fighting cowards."

Winston Watson, 45, of Martinsburg, was not worrying about the warnings either. If terrorists are bent on doing harm, it's going to happen, Watson said.

"There's nothing you can do about it," added Stephanie Morris, 23, of Martinsburg.

Mary Culbertson, 55, of Chambersburg, is wary and plans to stay that way.

"After what happened on Sept. 11 they can't be too careful," she said. "I'm sure those children and their parents who live in high-rises in New York are worried. I know I'd be. I live out in the country and I'm concerned. We all need to stay alert."

Staff writers Andrea Rowland, Dave McMillion and Richard Belisle contributed to this story.

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