Students react to tragedy

· Sep 12, 2001 Tweet

Across campus Tuesday morning, grim UW-Madison students gazed in shocked disbelief at television sets relaying sickening scenes of terrorist destruction.


Some inwardly rejected the spectacle before them.


“I thought it was a joke,” recent UW graduate Brett Turner said, holding his head in his hands. “I’m still in a daze – it’s unreal.”


Also initially incredulous, UW junior Carson Hinkley saw the movie-like drama unfolding on CNN.


“At first I was in disbelief; I didn’t know what to think,” he said. “Then I got excited, and then depressed, and then angry – I went through a whole range of emotions. Now I’m just sad.”


Many thoughts sped immediately to friends and family in New York and Washington, D.C.


“I see ‘Buildings Exploded’ and ‘America Attacked’ and right away you start freaking out and thinking about anyone you know who was there,” UW freshman Daniel Rosen said. “I have relatives there, and my girlfriend called because her cousin worked in the World Trade Center. I haven’t heard what happened to her.”


As the morning’s events reverberated across America, the story became intensely personal for many students, especially those with close East Coast ties.


A friend’s phone call woke UW freshman Jeff Robbins, who immediately switched on the television and grabbed the phone.


“I called my dad – my uncle lives in New York; he was lucky,” Robbins said. “He’s a psychiatrist and he had a late appointment. He ended up not going downtown.”


UW freshman Isaac Ballou said his first inkling of disaster came from his roommate.


“My roommate – he’s from New York – just started cussing,” he said. “He was just flipping out.”


New York City native Jamie Mandor, Towers Residence Hall freshman, was visibly upset.


“As a New Yorker, I feel sad for New York as a place and for everyone’s families,” she said as she cradled a phone to her ear, receiving information from friends and family.


Students lucky enough not to have loved ones near the disaster areas comforted friends who did. UW freshman Nimita Parekh tried to console friends on her dorm floor.


“We all sat in a room together and watched the news for two hours,” she said. “The room held a really quiet, shocked silence.”


Among those UW students stunned beyond words was Ibrahim Alhano, a UW graduate student from Saudi Arabia who caught the live footage of the second World Trade Tower collapse.


“It’s like a dream – I cannot think,” Alhano said. “Especially with no information as to who and why. I’m becoming afraid the source of this attack is from the Middle East.”


Many pundits and politicians have thrown blame towards terrorist Osama bin Laden, a Saudi exile. Bin Laden, held responsible for the previous bombing of two U.S. embassies, commands a network of Islamic fundamentalists who see the United States as the primary enemy in a holy war. He is currently hiding out in Afghanistan and has been sheltered by the ruling Taliban movement. The Taliban have denied involvement.


Nevertheless, Turner said he felt America should forcefully retaliate against Afghanistan.
“We should bomb the f**k out of everyone,” he said. “We should wipe Afghanistan off the map.”
However, most students urged restraint.


“Don’t jump to any conclusions,” UW junior Tanya Stanfield said. “It’s easy for people to point fingers. We need to be careful.”


Alhano expressed deep concern about the attack’s origin and potential repercussions.


“With this limited information, it is important that the U.S. strike back, but at the right people,” he said. “Most link the attack to the Arab world. It’s very emphasized that any attack on the U.S. will be linked to the Middle East. If the source is from the Middle East, I feel terrible.”


Fifth-year senior Courtney O’Herrin said “action must be taken” but also echoed Alhano’s worries.
“There are so many rumors going around about the Middle East at this point,” she said. “I don’t think [the U.S.] should assume anything.”


The U.S. can assume, however, that a growing faction of the world’s citizens harbor a blazing hatred against America.


“There are two sides to this story,” Alhano said. “Those who see the U.S. as the center of the world, and another side, those who see the U.S. as the devil of the world.”

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This article was published Sep 12, 2001 at 12:00 am and last updated Sep 12, 2001 at 12:00 am

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