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County students talk terrorism

COAL GROVE – Students at four local high schools had something on their minds Thursday morning, and they got the chance to talk it over with U.

Friday, March 15, 2002

COAL GROVE – Students at four local high schools had something on their minds Thursday morning, and they got the chance to talk it over with U.S. 6th District Congressman Ted Strickland. The subject – terrorism.

Strickland made an hour available Thursday for a video teleconference with about 20 high school students each from Rock Hill, South Point, Dawson-Bryant, Collins Career Center, Portsmouth Clay and Pickaway Ross Joint Vocational School in Chillicothe.

He answered questions about how terrorism is affecting daily life in the nation’s capital, and what the federal government is doing to protect citizens against future acts of violence.

Strickland admitted that life in Washington, D.C. has changed a lot – even for government officials – since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"I walked to work this morning, and as I neared the Capitol I saw big earth-moving equipment tearing out trees. They’re building a visitor’s center there and eventually, everyone who comes to the Capitol Complex and office buildings will have to go through that center, " Strickland said.

"Even now, security is much tighter; even members of Congress are more closely scrutinized." He offered as an example the process of officers using mirrors to check for explosive devices underneath cars going into the Capitol Complex parking areas.

"But my hope is that we don’t become so concerned with security that people give up coming here, but we try to find a balance between security and an open government."

Joe Craft, a Dawson-Bryant senior, mentioned the concern about terrorists striking in the future with "silent killers" such as anthrax. Strickland responded that The Centers For Disease Control are acquiring adequate supplies and equipment to combat biological and chemical attacks, and is devising methods of communication with communities and creating methods to track illnesses in the event of an outbreak.

Strickland also mentioned that security at U.S. borders is undergoing review, as is the process of granting student visas.

A student who identified herself as Lindsay, from South Point, asked if Strickland thought the new color code system for security alerts was useful. Strickland replied he thought it was "silly and superficial," and said he wasn’t sure what value such a system would have.

John Blankenship, Dawson-Bryant senior, asked Strickland his thoughts on the use of nuclear weapons in the war on terrorism. Strickland replied he worries that if the U.S. chooses to use nukes first, terrorists and smaller nations who now have nuclear weapons would respond likewise.

One student who did not identify herself or her school asked Strickland if he thought racial profiling could be considered infringement on basic human rights. Strickland answered that the U.S. must find a balance between security and personal freedom.

"I can accept inconvenience," Strickland said. "I can accept waiting in line at airports and being searched before I get on a plane. That’s inconvenience. What I can’t accept is anything that results in a loss of freedoms guaranteed to us in the Bill of Rights. We should never be willing to give up our freedoms, because then the terrorists have won. They have changed our way of life."

Sami Jo Hunt, Dawson-Bryant senior, said terrorism is something she and fellow students talked a lot about following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, but not as much these days.

"I try not to think about it," she said. While Hunt doesn’t see the Tri-State as being at the top of any terrorist’s list, she realizes that the Ohio river and various plants throughout the region could be considered targets.

Hunt said immediately after the attacks, she "watched TV all the time," and couldn’t believe it was real at first.

"It really shocked me."

Hunt’s teacher, Sandra Castle, said her students discuss current events every day as part of their class work, and are "pretty aware of what’s going on."

Strickland praised the students for their questions and concerns, and encouraged them to continue their education, saying "our country desperately needs you."