Archive for Wednesday, October 10, 2001

Local voices speak of patriotism, resolve

October 10, 2001

While shoppers walk the aisles, the bank of televisions in the Wal-Mart store flash the latest news of U.S. warplanes attacking terrorist targets in Afghanistan. Students go to class, football games fill the Friday nights.

Life goes on. But beneath the surface of normalcy, life has changed. A nation shocked by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C., is now on the attack.

That new reality is felt across the country, and in Bonner Springs, Edwardsville and Basehor. Asked about America's response to terrorism, local residents speak of patriotism and hopes for peace.

Here are their voices.

Local Leaders

As community leaders, Basehor Mayor Bill Hooker and school district Superintendent Cal Cormack make tough decisions every day but the decision to attack a terrorist enemy would have been an easy one for both men.

Both have served in the military and said they speak for themselves and not their constituents.

"It was inevitable," Hooker said. "(The government) gave us warning about what might happen and gave them warning about what would happen if they didn't turn (Osama bin Laden) over."

Cormack agreed with Hooker and said he supports the actions of the United States government in what is undoubtedly a difficult situation.

"There is no question what is occurring is sobering to many people," Cormack said.

"I applaud and support the response our government has taken to this point A husband and father

Basehor Police Chief Vince Weston probably has as much right as anyone to be concerned about the events in the Middle East.

Not only is Weston concerned for the sake of his country, but he is also concerned for the sake of his family.

Both his wife and son could be called to active duty should a Middle East conflict escalate.

"We train our soldiers and airmen to defend our country and our freedom," he said. "We trust our government and our allies ,but we lost 5,000 people in a matter of hours on Sept. 11 and sometimes we have to stand up."

His son is an Army lieutenant stationed in Hawaii. His wife is a reserve in the Air National Guard stationed in St. Joseph, Mo.

Weston tries not to allow his personal feelings to get in the way of the good of the country.

"The American people are behind this and so am I," Weston said.

The veterans

Basehor residents and VFW members, Jack Williams Sr. and Bob Wiley said the action taken against terrorist targets in the Middle East was justified.

Williams said he is confident that victory over terrorism is not only possible, it is probable.

"My reaction is that we have the best team available in the White House and the government," Williams said. "They are doing everything just right and to my knowledge they have everything well in hand."

Wiley, an Army veteran of World War II, said the war on terrorism should be fought domestically as well as on the foreign stage.

"We have to put a halt on terrorism and especially those who were involved with them," Wiley said. "There are still some people in the U.S. that are sympathetic to them and we have some cleaning up here to do as well as over there."

The veterans also said they hoped the government would return to defense strategies used during the World War II and Korean conflicts.

The high school senior

Basehor-Linwood High School senior Joey Barlow is a member of the football team.

However, on Tuesday, Oct. 9 ,his thoughts shifted away from the upcoming game and onto more pressing matters, his 18th birthday.

"It is kind of scary to think what could happen," Barlow said. "I just turned 18 and if this thing got really bad I could be over there."

The thought of a draft all but assures the senior of attending college when he graduates.

Mayor and major

Many people in Bonner Springs call him mayor, but there's a title Steve Breneman would much prefer to have back during these times major.

Breneman, a 20-year veteran of the Army, said it is hard to watch the military head off to a foreign country to battle terrorists and not be able to do what he was trained to do. Breneman's son, Michael, is in the Army Reserves and was called up for duty recently.

Breneman said although he believes winning the war against terrorism will be difficult, he cautions against speculation that the U.S. military could suffer tremendous casualties fighting in Afghanistan.

"It's a hard nut to crack," Breneman said of terrorism. "But don't believe everything you hear about our risk for mass casualties. We are so technologically advanced compared to any other country in the world that a few casualties can happen, but nothing like we've seen in previous wars."

Breneman said there are two clear choices for Afghanistan and the other countries that the United States says sponsor terrorist activities they can change their ways, or they can face the consequences. Breneman said the U.S. military will probably move on to other targets once it's satisfied with operations in Afghanistan.

"Basically, they're going to have to cooperate or let us come in and clean them out," Breneman said.

The minister

Events like the terrorist attacks against the United States bring out the worst in people, but they also bring out the best.

Pastor John Walker knows that first-hand. Walker has led his congregation at the First Christian Church of Bonner Springs in prayer for those affected by the recent events.

Church attendance has increased since the Sept. 11 attacks.

"We've seen people we haven't seen in a long time," Walker said.

Parishioners at Walker's congregation participated in two prayer vigils in recent weeks, and Walker opened his church up for worship the Friday after the attacks during a national day of prayer and remembrance.

Walker said it's sometimes difficult for him to figure out exactly what to say about the events, especially because so many people in the community have family members in the military. It didn't take him long, however, to remind his congregation that not everyone from the Middle East is to blame for the attacks.

During the Persian Gulf War, Walker said he recalls too well the discrimination a local Iranian family went through when their pizza parlor in Bonner Springs was broken into and ethnic slurs scrawled everywhere.

"All people that looked Iraqi were indicted," Walker said. "We continue to caution people about discriminating against all people that don't look like us."

A helping hand

As the director of Vaughn-Trent Community Services, a local organization that helps people in need, Carol Geary has seen the best of people many times before. Despite her previous experiences, even Geary wasn't prepared for the outpouring of donations since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on America.

"It's just mind-boggling," Geary said of the hundreds of millions of dollars that have been collected by relief agencies during the past few weeks since the attack.

With so much money going to help the victims of the national tragedy, Geary worries that not enough will be available in the months to come for others in need. Corporate layoffs, some of which are direct results of the terrorism, could strike people in this area, thus increasing the demands placed on smaller charitable organizations, such as Vaughn-Trent.

"People may not be able to give as generously as they have during the past," Geary said. "People only have so much disposable income."

The postmaster

For Basehor Postmaster Joe Rundus, the thought of America's youth being sent to war is chilling.

However, she has seen the young men who have recently turned 18 get a rewarding feeling when they pick up their selective service cards.

"There is just a different feeling now than before," Rundus said. "When they come in to get a card they are proud to be in here. They feel honored to do it."

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