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Some Cope, Some Quake, in Aftermath of Attacks

By Jennifer Dorroh and Sonia Kumar
Capital News Service and Maryland Newsline
Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2001

Tragedies' Footprints

A series of occasional profiles on the impact of the Sept. 11 violence and ensuing war on Marylanders' lives

Oct. 16: The Trade Center survivor

Oct. 17: The Muslim student

Oct. 18: The Pentagon survivor

WASHINGTON - Ledo's Restaurant manager Kendra Wolfe went about her normal duties Friday, writing the daily specials on the board, giving orders to employees and seating customers at the restaurant near Langley Park. But in the back of her mind, she says, was the nagging fear that another terrorist attack was coming soon. 

"I worry about it all the time," Wolfe says. "It drives me crazy. They're going to get us." 

A month after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and a day after the FBI warned of possible attacks in the next several days, many Marylanders say they are feeling nervous. Some, like Wolfe, try to just live with their fears as they wait for the other shoe to drop, while others act on those jitters, calling doctors for antibiotics, buying guns, snapping up gas masks and forwarding e-mails about the latest terrorism rumors. 

"I work with everyone from executives to street people," said Russell Hibler, chief psychologist at Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore. "They're all dealing with a sense of heightened vulnerability." 

But Hibler and others are urging people not to panic. If they must take action, officials note, there are some things people can do to prepare for an emergency and others that won't help. 

The Maryland Red Cross suggests having food, water and batteries on hand and says parents should know their children's school emergency plan. But gas masks and the anthrax vaccine may not be necessary or helpful. 

And spreading -- or starting -- rumors put others at risk, says the FBI. 

"People who start rumors are helping the terrorists achieve what they want to achieve," says Peter Gulotta, a spokesman for the FBI in Baltimore. "It's not funny. It drains law enforcement resources and puts the people of this country in danger." 

Searching For a Fix

Health departments across the state have received hundreds of calls from people asking for the anthrax vaccine and for antibiotics in case there is a chemical attack. 

"People are changing their mindset from 'It won't happen here' to 'It did happen, and it was disastrous,' " says Dr. Janet Neslen of the Carroll County Health Department. "So naturally they are trying to protect themselves and their families." 

Places of worship are also bearing a special burden, as people look to faith for consolation and insight. "We took a lot of phone calls from early on and continue to talk to a lot of people" who are looking for comfort following the attacks, says Ed Williams, a pastor at the First Baptist Church of Wheaton. 

The church, which has seen “a slight bump” in attendance since the attacks, has organized extra prayers and small group meetings on weeknights to help congregation members work through their concerns, Williams says.

"When something like this happens, you lay aside what you have planned," he adds.

Schools, too, are struggling to find the appropriate balance between reacting to recent events and moving forward. 

"Many school systems are cutting back on the amount of trips and travel they do out of state, and tightening up building security," says Ron Peiffer, assistant state superintendent in the School and Community Outreach Office for the Maryland State Department of Education.

They're also stepping up counseling efforts. "Some school systems have had family members and friends affected," Peiffer says.

Meanwhile, Army surplus stores continue to sell gas masks as fast as they can stock them.

And gun sales have stayed high since the attacks, say gun shop owners. 

"People want to be prepared for anything," says Larry Dunn, manager of Bay Country Guns in Annapolis, where he says sales have doubled since the attacks.

Getting Back to Business

These reactions are natural under the circumstances, psychologists say. With potential targets like Washington, Camp David and Fort Detrick in or around Maryland, Hibler says it is likely that at least half of the state's residents will experience anxiety in the wake of attacks and as rumors circulate. 

But Hibler, who recently returned from counseling survivors and workers at the World Trade Center, says the best medicine for anxiety is to go on with your life. "If you fall off the horse, you have to get back on," Hibler says. "We have to go on living." 

It's a message Gov. Parris Glendening has been delivering, too. Glendening is urging Marylanders to "go out and spend money and enjoy life," says spokeswoman Michelle Byrnie. "You don't want the terrorists, who have already destroyed buildings and taken lives, to destroy the fabric of the community or the American spirit." 

The governor announced he will more than triple spending for advertising for Maryland's $7.7 billion tourism industry for the rest of the year. More than 100,000 Marylanders work for tourism-related industries, particularly air travel and hospitality. Both have suffered some of the greatest financial losses since the attacks, according to the Maryland Department of Business and Development.

"Consumers have been reluctant to travel and go out and celebrate or entertain themselves," says Pradeep Ganguly, chief economist for the Maryland Department of Business and Development. 

Part of that reluctance stems from fear.

At a town meeting last week in Rockville, Rep. Connie Morella, R-Bethesda, urged her constituents not to panic. Morella also had a panel of experts on hand to answer questions and ease their security concerns. 

"Those attacks shocked and horrified us. They swept away our innocence," Morella said. "But let's not panic. This is a time when we will be living with concerns, but at least we'll know that we can come together, and we will prevail."



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Published 10/16/01; last updated: 03/21/02 11:03 AM


Special report produced by Sonia Kumar, Kim Harris and Kathleen Johnston; edited by Chris Harvey (Web) and Steve Crane and Adrianne Flynn (print). Banner graphic by Sonia Kumar.

Copyright © 2001 University of Maryland College of Journalism. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.


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