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Sept. 12, 2001: Images captivate, horrify TV viewers

The normally upbeat atmosphere of Midtown Sundries at Manchester Village was replaced by a somber mood Tuesday, as lunch patrons shook their heads in disbelief over the tragic news emanating from the television sets around the bar.

Manager Gene Hat-cher said the mood had been solemn as em-ployees and customers tried to come to grips with what had transpired in New York and Washington, D.C. He said some patrons had even left the restaurant in tears.

Carlo McWhirter of Lancaster County said he was worried about friends who live in New York.

"I know a few people up that way and have not heard from them because all of the lines have been tied up," McWhirter said. "One of my co-workers has a sister who lives in the Manhattan area, and he hasn't heard from her yet. This is a tragic situation. I know the world is not going to come to an end, but it makes you consider your safety."

Tom Clark of Rock Hill was on his way to visit business associate Randy Watts of Lancaster when he heard the news on the car radio. Clark and Watts stared somberly at the monitors in the restaurant, pondering how the attacks happened.

"Somebody has been planning this for a long time but the question is, Who? There will be a call for revenge against whoever did this," Clark said. "It's going to be a rough week. It makes all your problems seem really small."

Across town at the YMCA fitness room off Charlotte Avenue, the Rev. Anthony Johnson was on the treadmill drawing a different conclusion.

"The saddest thing is that not one person will take the time to ask why," said the pastor of Mount Zion Baptist Church in McConnells. Johnson expressed sympathy for the victims hurt in the terrorist attacks but said this was a time for national self-examination rather than re-venge.

"If you hit me, I need to ask why," Johnson said. "They're sitting around trying to figure out how to retaliate."

Rock Hill resident Jennifer Boland was watching the same bank of televisions at the Y. She couldn't stop watching.

"I'm completely beside myself. ... I'm completely amazed and angry," said Boland, who first heard the news as she got into her car to drive to the Y.

"This has been planned for a long time. It makes me think of Pearl Harbor. How the Japanese sat there and planned it for months," Boland said. "It's obviously been planned. They're hitting us at the heart of what matters to us, the financial district. Even worse they are killing innocent people"

As she watched the TV coverage, with smoke rising from the scene of the collapsed World Trade Center towers, Boland shook her head. "It makes you sick, doesn't it."

One of Boland's concerns is explaining to her 6-year old son the events of the day.

"He will understand the concept of good guys and bad guys," Boland said. "I don't think he'll understand the ramifications until he's older what this means to us as a nation."

Peggy Whiting, a counseling professor at Winthrop Univer-sity, said how people respond to Tuesday's tragedy depends on their age. But the parents of younger children have a big responsibility. Younger children need direct, short, concise answers, she said.

"If we can just be available to hear a child's questions," Whiting said. "I'm not sure I would want my 5-year-old watching every graphic picture. They will take it to heart, and it will frighten them. Little children are more affected by sensory media. We can have more control over them by turning the TV off and walking away."

After a disaster, children can suffer psychological damage from experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. After a traumatic event, parents should watch for:

n A child's refusal to return to school and "clinging" behavior, including shadowing the mother or father around the house.

n Persistent fears related to the disaster, such as fears about being permanently separated from parents.

n Sleep disturbances — including nightmares, screaming during sleep and bedwetting — that persist more than several days after the event.

n Loss of concentration and irritability.

n A child is easily startled or jumpy.

n Behavior problems, such as misbehaving in school or at home in ways that are not typical for the child; including stomachaches, headaches and dizziness, for which a physical cause cannot be found.

n Withdrawal from family and friends, sadness, decreased activity and preoccupation with the events of the disaster.

Source: Psychiatrist Dr. Steven Cuff, University of South Carolina School of Medicine