Archive for Friday, September 14, 2001

Lawrencians show pride, tolerance in attack aftermath

September 14, 2001


By Joel Mathis

From Massachusetts Street to cyberspace, Lawrence residents Thursday were exhibiting their patriotism -- and tolerance -- after Tuesday's terrorist attacks on America.

Angie Conrad put a sign in the window of her downtown shop, My Father's Daughter. A Kansas University student flew the stars and stripes at her sorority. Tony Johnson, a KU employee, created a patriotic Internet banner and asked people to post it on their Web sites.

"I just wanted to say something," Johnson said of his banner, which read: "United we stand, divided we fall: We are not divided."

"I think everybody feels the same way," Johnson said.

While Muslims and their mosques faced attacks and threats elsewhere in the United States, some Lawrence residents expressed compassion for their Islamic neighbors. One man on Thursday took flowers to the Islamic Center of Lawrence, and campus religious organizations offered a haven to any international student who felt unsafe.

"We don't expect this, but if there's a need for people to get away from physical or verbal abuse, or if they just don't feel safe, they can come here," said Thad Holcombe, director of Ecumenical Christian Ministries, 1204 Oread.

Attacks denounced

Lawrence Muslims expressed their disgust with the attacks.

"We condemn in the strongest terms possible what are apparently vicious and cowardly acts of terrorism against innocent civilians. We join with all Americans in calling for the swift apprehension and punishment of the perpetrators. No cause could ever be assisted by such immoral acts," said Baha Safadi, a spokesman for the Lawrence Islamic Center

"Muslim medical professionals should go to the scenes of the attacks to offer aid and comfort to the victims. Muslim relief agencies should contact their counterparts to offer support in the recovery efforts."

Jack Martin, spokesman for U.S. Congressman Dennis Moore, D-Kan., said constituents in his Northeast Kansas 3rd Congressional District had called, faxed or e-mailed his office 114 times about the attack.

"The vast majority of those are in support of some form of retaliation," Martin said. "And many of them have been to thank the congressman for supporting the president."

Some, Martin said, made inflammatory statements about Muslims.

"Emotions are very high with some people," Martin said. "It's very unfortunate, some of what's been expressed."

That concerned Roger Shimomura, a KU art professor who was sent to a U.S. prison camp for two years during World War II -- at the age of 2 -- because of his family's Japanese heritage.

"It's a perfect parallel," Shimomura said. "The only difference now is there's been some experience making that mistake and there's people coming out against that."

But not enough to make him feel comfortable.

"It's absolutely, totally, unbelievably idiotic," Shimomura said. "It's quite painful people feel that way."

Not everybody does. Lawrence resident Steve Guinn delivered the flowers to the Islamic Center.

"I have a lot of close friends who are Muslim," he said. "The cycle of hatred cannot continue to occur."

Counseling available

Some residents and KU students sought solace through counseling.

"We're starting to get a little more traffic in our office," said Frank DeSalvo, director of KU's Counseling and Psychological Services, "especially with persons from the Tri-State area" of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center opened its doors late this week to provide help to those who want it. But Tom Bates, a psychologist at the center, said there has actually been a drop-off in the number of people seeking help this week.

"The community is just in shock," Bates said. "This has never happened before."

Bates said traumatic national incidents can affect most adversely those already struggling with mental illness.

"Among some of our more severely disturbed we've seen some reaction, but I'm pleased to say not a lot," he said.

And people have been busy organizing or communicating plans for sweeping expressions of sympathy and grief. E-mails were sent across the nation, urging people to step outside and light a candle at 7 p.m. today after flying their flags all day. Today has been declared a national day of mourning and remembrance.

And Bates said Bert Nash officials are discussing a community forum to help the healing and discuss ways to "protect our way of life together."

That will be difficult, he said.

"We're never really going to get back to normal," Bates said. "Things are going to be different now."

-- Staff writer Joel Mathis can be reached at 832-7126.

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