Tell us how Sept. 11 changed your life

August 21, 2002|by BOB MAGINNIS

For more than 20 years, my family and I have lived in the Smithsburg area, just a few miles from the presidential retreat at Camp David. On Sundays we'd sometimes drive past it to look at the deer in the state park that surrounds the compound. It was not until the attacks of this past Sept. 11 that I began to think about the possibility that Camp David - and possibly the entire area - might be a terrorist target.

In the days soon after the attack, we could hear the roar of the fighters circling, and in the early mornings as my wife and I walked on the Smithsburg High School track, I imagined that a jetliner might swoop over South Mountain to drop a bomb or a load of nasty bacteria.

But then I interviewed some psychologists from the Washington County Health System, who essentially said that life is full of risks and that the important thing is how we live, whether we have 20 days left or 20 years. Helping others is a good way to relieve stress, they said.


After that I became active in Interfaith Coalition of Washington County, a group dedicated to increasing the understanding between people of different beliefs. At a time when it would have been easy to lay low, these people stood up to demonstrate that life is different in America, where even the most serious disputes can be settled without resorting to violence.

That's how the events of Sept. 11 changed my life. Now what about you? If you'd like to share, in 100 words or less, your own experience or feeling about the event and its aftermath, please send letters to Editorial Page Editor, The Herald-Mail, P.O. Box 439, Hagerstown, Md., 21741, or e-mail them to

We'll fill the Sept. 11 editorial page with letters and if there's any overflow, it will be run it the following Sunday, Sept. 15. We'd appreciate it if you could get your letters in by Sept. 1. We reserve the right not to run racist letters, or revenge fantasies.

On that same topic, I recently talked with an official of a local nonprofit organization who said that after the attack, she felt the country came together with a strong desire to act for the common good.

Then the stock market tanked and people began to lose their retirement nest eggs and the media began to expose how a few at the top got obscenely rich while others lost everything. At that point, she said, people began to lose that patriotic feeling because they were worried about what was going to happen to them personally.

And so, in addition to stealing from their shareholders, these corporate crooks stole the nation's spirit. Perhaps we'll get it back if enough of them are led away in handcuffs and offered new jobs mopping the hallways in correctional facilities.

On a lighter note, the 140th commemoration of the Battle of Antietam will be held Sept. 13-15. My family and I attended the last one, arriving before dawn on a foggy Sunday morning to observe acast of thousands re-create one of the Civil War's bloodiest battles.

There will be more than enough descriptions of what will take place elsewhere in The Herald-Mail, but because an estimated 50,000 spectators are expected, I do have a special request.

If you see someone with out-of-state license plates who doesn't seem quite sure where to go, offer them a little bit of help or directions if they need them. Washington County will be on display then, and who can say that one of the guests won't be an executive of a high-tech company looking for a new place to do business. Send those visitors back home with a warm feeling about us, please.

As state-level elected officials work toward better reimbursement policies for the doctors who staff Maryland's regional trauma centers, they should also look at the plight of the local ambulance companies.

The same issues that doctors and hospitals face - insurance companies and government programs whose payments haven't kept pace with costs - are also impacting the rescue squads. Call loads are increasing along with the number of patients with no insurance or inadequate coverage. It would be a shame to fix one arm of the system only to have another part break down a year from now.

The Sept. 10 primary election is just weeks away, and if you're just getting interested, it's not too late to find out about the candidates in contested races. The Herald-Mail has added an Election 2002 page to its Web site, featuring stories about the candidates that have run previously. The Herald-Mail's Web site is

The Government Affairs Committee of the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce will hold three candidate forums after the primary at the Sheraton Four Points.

All will run from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. and will be scheduled as follows: state senate on Oct. 9, county commissioners on Oct. 16 and state delegates on Oct. 23. Those are all Wednesdays. To register, call 301-739-2015.

Bob Maginnis is editorial page editor of The Herald-Mail newspapers.

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