To many here, pain and fear haven’t faded

The Columbus Dispatch – September 11, 2011

A decade after Sept. 11, Columbus residents describe themselves as a little warier, a little more watchful and a little more distrustful of others than they were before the terrorist attack.

“I think I’m not nearly as trusting and naive of other people,” said Rita Reed, 68, a Columbus retiree. “I don’t trust other people as much as I did before.”

The week after the Sept. 11 attack, Saperstein Associates surveyed Reed and a few hundred others in the Columbus area for The Dispatch. Asked the same questions 10 years later, Reed has not changed her fundamental opinions about the attack.

Back then, she thought it was “very likely” that the United States would be able to find and punish those responsible for the attack. Today, she said she believes that has happened, but “I think there is a whole new crop that we need to be wary of.”

In September 2001, Reed said she believed some attacks would be impossible to prevent. Ten years later, she still says that’s the case.

And she still believes the government did all it could to prevent the attack.

“I think that what happened was something completely unexpected,” she said. “In hindsight, you can always see what was done wrong, but I don’t think they could’ve completely protected us. (The government) did a good job of not letting it go any further.”

In 2001, Steven S. Sweeney, now a 47-year-old Columbus resident who works on commercial HVAC systems, said he opposed sending in ground troops as a result of the attack.

Today, he believes sending them in was a mistake. The terrorists, he said, weren’t originally in the countries the United States attacked.

“Afghanistan — that’s a joke,” he said. “Iraq was a joke.”

He said, “Entirely too many people” died in those wars. “Our young men are better off being somewhere else instead of being on a hillside in the middle of nowhere getting shot at.”

In 2001, Sweeney described himself as “somewhat confident” in President George W. Bush’s ability to handle the crisis. Ten years later, that confidence has ebbed dramatically.

“It was a bunch of bull that they had chemical, biological and nuclear capabilities,” he said of Iraq. “It was a joke. The information was bad, and we shouldn’t have went there at all.”

His confidence in President Barack Obama isn’t much better.

“What has he handled, period? He knew nothing about the military, and the only reason troops are over there right now is political, I think. Hope and change … well, how much change you got left?”& amp; amp; amp; amp; amp; lt; /p>

Canal Winchester retiree Jackie Marion, 66, is reminded of Sept. 11 when she sees a neighbor who was blinded by a bomb in Iraq.

But she said that, 10 years after the attack, she feels largely sheltered from much of the anxiety others felt after Sept. 11. “I think of the Midwest as kind of stable,” she said. “Things happen in the East Coast, and they happen in the West Coast.”

But she admits that the attack is still jarring.

“I guess the most astonishing thing that happened was knowing that we are more vulnerable,” she said.

Elaine Washington, now 63 and a retired federal worker from Columbus, said in 2001 that it would be impossible to prevent all terrorist attacks.

Ten years later, she said that’s still the case, but she also said in retrospect that citizens should’ve been more vigilant.

“You have to go by your inner sense — what my mother used to call the fifth sense — when something just does not feel right,” she said.

She said she was stunned by reports that the terrorists took flight lessons and only were interested in how to take off, not land. That should have “set off alarms,” she said.

“There were a lot of things that were missed that we as private citizens didn’t do our part,” she said.

But she said that now the vigilance is often misdirected. People are too busy looking “at certain people, when the ones who are really a danger to us are slipping through the cracks.”

She said she has seen Muslims unfairly targeted by both black and white Americans, and “I don’t like that.”

“You can’t take the actions of a few and stain everyone with that brush,” she said.

Washington remembers Sept. 11 clearly. She was on leave from work, baby-sitting a grandson, and was sleeping when her husband came in and woke her.

“He said, ‘Elaine, we’re being attacked,’??” she said. “I remember it just like I remember President Kennedy being shot. Those two events, I’ll never forget where I was.”

She has not flown since the attack. Her daughter asked her to come to Hawaii, but she said no.

Flying, she said, “had never been super-comfortable for me.

“It is really uncomfortable now.”