Effects of terror felt in area schools | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Effects of terror felt in area schools

Jill Darby

Too far to feel the heat of flames or smell the blackened smoke, South Shore schools are close enough to be affected.

By the time the first bell rang Tuesday at Whittell High School, news of hijacked airplanes crashing into the Pentagon and World Trade Center buzzed throughout classrooms.

“It has been just an amazing day. I really think this is something these kids will remember,” Whittell teacher Maxine Atherton said. “Their grandparents had Pearl Harbor. Their parents had JFK and they have September 11, 2001.”

Douglas County School District Superintendent Pendery Clark said she advised principals to keep the mood at schools as normal as possible.

“It’s really important that children, who have very little understanding of this, not be frightened,” Clark said. “We need to help them feel safe and secure at school. We need to have as typical of a day as possible.”

Lake Tahoe Unified School District Superintendent Diane Scheerhorn shared similar sentiments.

“We have talked to all the principals at the elementary schools and they’re providing television coverage only for adults,” Scheerhorn said. “We are answering any concerns from the public. We’re trying to address questions from students but keep school as normal as possible.”

Televised news updates were not shown in most South Shore elementary school classrooms, but students at Whittell and South Tahoe High School were permitted to watch coverage throughout the day.

“I’ve kind of informally told the teachers it would certainly be appropriate to discuss it and if they have televisions in their classrooms, they can watch the coverage,” Whittell Principal Mario Gatto said Tuesday morning. “This is not something you hide from the kids, not something this huge. This is just tragic.”

Whittell teacher Larry Reilly spoke in depth with his students about the acts of terrorism.

“I’m just shocked,” 17-year-old Ryan Salomon said during Reilly’s English class. “People are saying we should have been prepared for this, but how do you prepare for something like this? I hope (President) Bush gets on it, finds whoever did this and takes care of them because this can’t happen. This is ridiculous. I can’t believe it and what’s scary is this might just be the start of it.”

Ezra Taylor, 17, said the massacre shows the United States is an open target for terrorism.

“It’s kind of scary because it opens your eyes to how vulnerable we are,” Taylor said. “There are so many planes and so many ways terrorists can do things to this country. We have to first figure out if it’s a terrorist act, and if so, we can’t just go over there and retaliate. It’s a group – not a government, not a country.”

Whittell senior Nick Grasso said he is worried about America’s future, as well as the effect the attack may have on other countries and races.

“It’s not just the initial incident that has an impact,” Grasso said. “It’s going to affect us for awhile. There’s going to be a lot of rebuilding to do – not just the actual buildings, but what the buildings stand for.”

Students also expressed fear of more attacks.

“All of the attention is focused on the East Coast, which leaves the West Coast open for attack,” student Michael Nelson said.

Marcy Murphy, who said she is afraid to fly now, echoed Nelson’s comment.

“What’s really scary is something else could happen in the next few minutes,” she said. “It might not be over.”

South Tahoe High Principal Karen Ellis said morale was low on campus Tuesday.

“Our students seem to be hanging on in regard to the terrorist attack,” she said. “They seem glued to the televisions and are asking certainly very appropriate questions. It’s been a very somber day here for all of us – one of the darkest days we’ve seen.”

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