`I think it’s brought people together’ | PostIndependent.com

`I think it’s brought people together’

Empathy, anger, introspection, impatience and even hope. Local high school students’ opinions vary wildly regarding the one-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on American soil.

“I think it’s brought people together,” said Allison Little, a junior at Rifle High School. “Before, people seemed like they were more interested in being individuals, but now it seems like people are trying to get along.”

Eleni Roussos agrees. She’s a junior at Glenwood Springs High School.

“I’ve come to appreciate what I have,” she said. “It was terrible what happened, but I think the world is a better place now.”

Glenwood Springs High School student Caitlin Barnes echoes Roussos’ sentiments.

“People are a lot more friendly,” she said.

Roussos, whose father’s family lives in New York City, visited Manhattan in May. She reports that the nation’s general friendliness has spilled over to New Yorkers.

“In the city, it’s much easier now to start up a conversation with a complete stranger,” she said. “I didn’t meet one jerky person the whole time I was there this time.”

Still, New York City feels different.

“Everything has totally changed,” Roussos said. “You look at the Empire State Building and worry about it being attacked. I got an intensive search before visiting the Statue of Liberty, where before, we never were. It’s sad. Landmarks are seen in a different light now.”

Feeling removed

Back home, there’s a sense of security that some local students feel, living far away from the attack sites.

“It’s safe here,” said Glenwood Springs High School junior Ganeth Niedla. “I think it feels different to people who live in big cities, but here it feels safe.”

Rianna Robertson, a sophomore at Basalt High School, says it’s hard to feel like much has changed in her life since the attacks.

“I didn’t know anyone (who was killed) so I’m not that affected,” she said. “Nothing I do on a daily basis has really changed.”

Basalt High School junior Rochelle Moebius feels differently. She thinks the attacks woke up the country.

“Before, the U.S. seemed safe,” Moebius said. “It seemed like the best place to be. When (the attacks) happened, we were sheltered. We didn’t have the big picture. Now we do.”

Sofie Stenstavold, a Basalt High School sophomore, believes that Americans are now dealing with what the rest of the world must constantly confront.

“It’s American arrogance,” she said. “Before, we didn’t show sensitivity to (other countries’) atrocities. Only now that it’s hit our shores do we react so intensely.”

Other youth want to move on. They feel like the media have overplayed the tragedies.

“At first I was really upset, but now I’m tired of it,” said Rifle High School senior Harley Sutton. “I think we need to leave it alone.”

Eleni Roussos thinks that her fellow students have a difficult time connecting to the tragedies because they live so far away from them.

“People who have lived their whole lives out here don’t relate to it,” she said.

Allison Little says she didn’t realize the enormity of the attacks when they first happened.

“I was watching the news on TV and just thought a plane had accidentally hit the tower” she said. “But then I saw the second plane hit and I knew it was bad. When I got to school, I walked into the classroom and my teacher was bawling. That’s when I knew it was pretty serious.”

Flying the friendly (?) skies

For the most part, local high schoolers don’t have a fear of flying, post-Sept. 11. But for those who do fly, the experience is sharply different.

“Our family flies at least once a year, if not more,” said Amy Groscholz, a senior at Glenwood Springs High School. “I’m not really scared now, but the security is way up. The last time I flew, I had to take off my shoes.”

Airport shoe removal – and more – has been part of Basalt High School senior Lydia Fabian’s travel experiences since Sept. 11.

“I had to take off my shoes three different times on one trip,” she said. “And at one point, I was picked out of the line and wasn’t allowed on the plane.”

Caitlin Barnes said the increased security helps her feel safer.

“I wasn’t worried about flying, because of all the increased security,” she said.

Retaliate or let it be

For some, the terrorists’ attacks have fueled a passion to defend the country. For others, there’s a sense that “two wrongs don’t make a right.”

Harley Sutton’s father and two of his uncles were Marines. He said he’s thinking about joining in the family tradition.

“I’ve got friends who’ve joined the military,” he said. “They’ve been in seven countries in two years. I’m definitely thinking about it.”

Rifle High School senior Andy George said he doesn’t want to enlist, but he understands why others do.

“I wouldn’t join the military because that’s just not me,” he said. “But I can see that now is an exciting time to join.”

Leanne Sills, a senior at Rifle High School, said the attacks made her contemplate the country going to war – for the first time in her life.

“It opened my eyes,” she said. “It made me much more aware. I never thought about us waging a major war. I hope it doesn’t lead to that.”

Mary Morelli, a sophomore at Glenwood Springs High School, said the U.S. intervention in Afghanistan made her feel more secure.

“I feel like the people that were sent over there to help have made us safer,” she said.

Jenn Stroud, a Basalt High School senior, is wary of the United States going too far.

“I don’t think we should think in terms of `getting back’ at anyone,'” she said. “I think we should be concerned with protecting ourselves. Retaliation doesn’t necessarily work, because it can lead to something worse.”

Commemorating Sept. 11 – on Sept. 11

In both the Roaring Fork Re-1 and Garfield Re-2 school districts, it is school as usual today – with a focus.

“We want to keep it positive,” said Glenwood Springs High School social studies teacher Guy Brickell. “We’ll be looking at examples of civic virtue and the many ways people across the country have helped one another since Sept. 11.”

Rifle High School principal Mike Smucker feels it’s important to remember and honor the victims of Sept. 11 – in context.

“We decided not to have an assembly,” he explained, “because we don’t want to turn this day into a celebration of any kind.”

Instead, at 10 a.m., students will recite the Pledge of Allegiance, and Smucker will give a short presentation over the school’s public address system.

Some history and social studies teachers are incorporating the Sept. 11 attacks into their lesson plans.

Rifle High School teacher Dave Kosht will lead a class discussion about the attacks in his two philosophy classes.

Matt Petersen is giving a slide presentation of the World Trade Center. The Rifle High School teacher lived in New York City for a summer and conducted a research project on the twin towers. He has slides of the building, which he will share with his students.

At Basalt High School, Karen Green will continue a discussion with her political science class regarding the possible invasion of Iraq.

“What’s the literal connection between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden?” she asked her students on Tuesday. “Why have we turned from Sept 11 and Osama to Saddam and Iraq? I want you to think about these questions for our next class.”

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