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Archive for Saturday, September 22, 2001

Kansans gather at Statehouse to mourn victims of attacks

September 22, 2001

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— Kansans filed quietly Friday on the Statehouse grounds and, wearing their nation's colors and their hearts on their sleeves, they remembered victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

With a 24-by-40-foot American flag fluttering behind him, Gov. Bill Graves told the more-than 2,000 people who gathered on the south lawn that the attacks changed the nation forever, but they should not lose hope.

"America will not merely survive; we will prevail," Graves said.

Many of those attending the ceremony wiped away tears as local vocalist June Murphy sang the national anthem, "Amazing Grace" and "God Bless America."

Fred and Kim Patton of Topeka brought their 18-month-old son, Zachary, to the Statehouse grounds. He wore a gray T-shirt with an American flag and played in the grass during the ceremony.

"It's another opportunity to get together and show we're united behind what our country's trying to do," said Fred Patton, a research attorney for the Shawnee County District Court.

Joni Curtis, supervisor in Topeka's street maintenance office, said she just wanted to pay tribute to the victims of the terrorist attacks. She said the event helps bring closure to Kansans and, "It gives us a chance to show our patriotism."

She and Fred Patton said they support efforts to root out and defeat terrorism, though they know what President Bush has described as "the first war of the 21st Century" is likely to be a lengthy one.

"It's not like we're going to fight a country," Fred Patton said. "It's going to take a while to figure out who it is."

And Curtis said: "I think it's going to be a very complicated war."

Bob Eckhardt, a civilian employee with the Kansas Highway Patrol, said the fact the attacks took place on U.S. soil has forever changed the way residents live.

"We have not lost our sense of freedom, but life will never be the same," Eckhardt said. "This is a turning point in society."

Eckhardt said Americans will stand unified behind President Bush and the war on terrorism even a prolonged campaign if the mission is not "a quick Band-Aid" for the problem.

"As long as Americans see and understand that we have a plan, we will support it," he said.

Many children are having a difficult time understanding recent events. Social workers said Friday that adults must take steps to keep children from keeping their thoughts and emotions about the attacks buried inside.

"I'm really worried about our children," said Susan Haremza, a social worker with Kansas Children's Service League. "Kid still don't understand. I'm not sure I understand."

Jadette Padilla, a social worker who deals with juveniles in Topeka, said her 9-year-old son is getting a little more affection.

"I don't want to lie to him and say it can't happen here," Padilla said. "I can hold him and hug him, but I can't promise him it won't happen.

"Not after last Tuesday," she added.

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