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A reader writes

September 21, 2001|By Kyle Collins

I was walking to my zero period AP chemistry class at Southwest High when one of my friends mentioned something about a plane crashing into the Pentagon.

He really did not have any details and the manner in which the information was initially presented to me led me to believe it was no big deal. As I went back to Central for the rest of my school day, I listened to the radio in horror. The news was on every station.

I quickly began to realize the extent of the damage. It was not until later, when I walked in to the band room and saw the news, that I fully understood what had happened. At this point in the day, all four of the planes had crashed, one of the World Trade Center towers had come down and the fires at the Pentagon were well under way.

Initially, I felt disbelief. I was shocked that something so tragic could happen to the greatest nation on this earth. Immediately after the realization had set in, I felt anger. As our president has stated, these are acts of war.

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As my classmates and I watched the news during our third period, everyone was shocked at these acts of terrorism. These go beyond acts of terrorism. These acts are a declaration of war from a faceless enemy. No nation in the world would challenge America to a conventional war. So they resort to cowardly, anonymous acts such as this.

After my anger began to subside, I was filled with a combination of frustration, fear and sorrow. My frustration, I realized, is a result of the lack of information as to who is responsible. Osama bin Laden's name, as we all know, came up almost immediately. It is, in my opinion, a reasonable assumption, to name him as a suspect. However, that is all he is — a suspect.

It frustrates me to hear newscasters talk about the evidence that points to him. However, as of this point, nothing concrete has surfaced.

It frustrates me to think about the possibility of the perpetrators of this horrific act going unpunished.

My heart is also filled with sorrow, not only for the victims, but for their friends and families. As rescuers will be unable to make a definite body count for some time, speculation of numbers fills the news. I have heard anything from a suspected 5,000 to 25,000 deaths. I really do dread the moment that the count is final.

As I watched the news, I saw speeches from various world leaders including Tony Blair, Jaques Chirac and Vladimir Putin express their condolences toward our nation. I even saw Yassar Arafat donating blood.

I watched this footage with mixed emotion. However, I found comfort in the apparent sincerity in the words of all these individuals. The president's speech also was comforting to me. As I discussed his speech with my peers, the general consensus was that this speech was well done and comforting.

This, perhaps, is the greatest tragedy our nation has faced. Certainly it's been the greatest tragedy I've experienced during the short 17 years of my life. There is no doubt that the damage and loss of life is tremendous, but this particular instance means much more to me. This is the first real tragedy that I can begin to understand.

The Oklahoma City bombing was tragic, although I did not understand it at all. I did not fully realize the loss of life. I did not understand the political process and how it deals with events like these. However, I now have a much better understanding of the events that have transpired.

This nation is in the middle of a never-before-seen tragedy. However, I don't believe the full extent of these events has been acknowledged. In the days to come, as the blood drive continues, the rescue workers dig through debris and medical workers stand by, the American people will begin to realize that the massive amounts of donated blood and the scores of medical workers will be useless. There will be few, if any, lives to save. Once the public becomes aware of the full extent of the loss of life, only then will we be able to begin to comprehend what has really happened.

You may call me cynical; I'll call myself realistic. However, the greatest potential tragedy of all this is also my biggest fear. So I beg my government, don't allow things to become worse. Don't allow this to become a bigger tragedy. Don't let international politics interfere with bringing those responsible to justice.

KYLE COLLINS, 17, of El Centro is a senior at Central Union High School.

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