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Valley speaks out on attacks

September 12, 2001|By JENNIFER RALTON-SMITH

and DARREN SIMON, Staff Writers

With the horrific acts of terrorism that played out on American soil Tuesday morning, Imperial Valley residents were resolute in their condemnation of the destruction and terror that flashed across their TV screens.

Those interviewed shared similar questions: How could it happen and how does the country react?

Those interviewed also said the terrorist attack will not be enough to cripple the country.

Brad Luckey, executive officer of the Imperial Irrigation District, said Tuesday afternoon, "It was almost surreal watching it on TV. It's a horrific loss of life and America will be forever changed."

Luckey, having lunch with friends at Junior's Cafe in downtown El Centro, went on to say, "I have complete confidence in our president and our elected leadership … but I think it would be premature for anyone to say exactly what they're going to do … we still don't know the full effect of what has happened.

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"I'm scared to death it's still not over yet."

His lunch partner, Darrell Croft, said, "I think some other country or group of people has declared war on the United States. As far as I'm concerned, it's war, no bones about it!"

Croft added, "I am hoping the president and his people use all the investigative powers the United States possesses to find who did this … and rid the earth of these people."

Valley residents were divided in their opinions on the vulnerability of the border region.

Luckey and Croft think the Imperial Valley, with a small population base, would not be the target of a terrorist attack.

Luckey said, "Terrorists look to commit sensational acts with huge numbers of people hurt and killed. Fortunately, we don't have the population numbers here."

Imperial Valley College student Sally Rosenwirth of Brawley reported that students on campus Tuesday were afraid and concerned.

Rosenwirth said students were concerned for the safety of family members living in New York City and Los Angeles, a subject that had been the topic of conversation on campus all morning.

Rosenwirth said, "I'm very scared personally because I don't know what is going to happen next."

Carlos Carriedo, a San Diego attorney who comes to the Imperial Valley weekly to conduct business, said Tuesday as he bought a cup of coffee at The Book Nook in downtown El Centro, he does not think "the full impact has hit the American people yet.

"I don't think it will be until it sinks in, not only for the government, but also for the people themselves … as to how we're going to react to it," he said.

Carriedo expressed the hope that "the American people will react in a calm way as opposed to becoming hysterical about it."

Calexico Police Chief Tommy Tunson, a Gulf War veteran and a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve, said Tuesday's events made him "angry" because of the "needless loss of American lives."

He added, "It's an obvious sad day in the history of our nation. I feel sympathy and sorrow for the victims of international terrorism that has taken roost in our country."

Tunson said it is time to support the government and its policies in dealing with terrorism and to support the country's leaders in "their quest to resolve terrorism against our nation."

Westmorland Mayor Henry Halcon said when he learned of the attack "my first reaction was my stomach was just turning. It was just too much at one time."

Halcon, who called on the Westmorland Police Department to guard the city's schools Tuesday, is confident federal authorities will bring the responsible parties to justice.

"There will be justice one way or another," he said. "But how do you bring back these dead people? You don't."

S.A. Kopp, a Pearl Harbor survivor and El Centro resident, sees a comparison between the attack on Pearl Harbor.

He added in some ways the New York attack on Tuesday was worse than Pearl Harbor, which led the United States into World War II.

"I felt in many respects it was much more cowardly than Pearl Harbor," said Kopp, one of five remaining Pearl Harbor survivors in the Valley. "We don't know who attacked us this time."

Kopp said while he does not support war, if the attack was led by a foreign nation he would support the U.S. government if war on that nation were declared.

"I'd even be willing to go," Kopp said.

Still, Kopp said he would rather see a change he thinks is long overdue.

"Something needs to happen," he said. "The world needs to turn back to God."

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