Horror ripples through Hillsboro, too

Just as a single drop of water sends ripples to the edges of a pond, the Sept. 11 “Attack on America” spread waves of horror, sorrow and disbelief around the world-including Hillsboro.

In years to come, individuals will remember what they were doing at the moment they heard about terrorists crashing American airliners into the World Trade Center buildings in New York City, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and a field near Pittsburg, Pa.

People will recall the numbing days following this horror and how members of their community re-acted to the atrocities.

The small community of Hillsboro and the surrounding areas felt the pain that reverberated throughout the land.

No one, it seemed, was left unscathed by the events of that momentous, historical day.

n Officials halted commercial air traffic in and out of U.S. airports, affecting travel plans of passengers and flight crews, including Steve Greenhaw, a pilot for United Airlines, who was scheduled to go to Germany that day. (See story Page 3.)

n Long lines formed at local gas stations.

n Flags proclaiming patriotism were readied to fly.

n The Red Cross local chapter was inundated with calls to volunteer or give blood.

n School children watched history unfold on televisions in their classrooms.

n Tabor College sponsored fund-raisers and cancelled some events.

n Churches organized prayer services.

n The Hillsboro Arts and Crafts Fair proceeded as scheduled.

Signs of panic appeared the day of the attack. At local gas stations, the line of cars doubled and quadrupled exponentially.

At the Ampride station, lines began to form around 2 p.m.

“At one point, there were 25 to 30 cars lined up to get gas,” said Laura Legg, Ampride supervisor.

Local stations put no limits on fuel consumption and did not raise their prices. Legg said the station didn’t run out of gas despite lines still forming at 10 p.m.

A half-filled gas tank on any other day would be no cause for concern, but on this day customers questioned whether there would be any gas available the next day-and if it was available, how high would the prices sky-rocket?

Expressions of patriotism

But gas prices and shortages did not stay on people’s minds for long.

Loren Hiebert, adjutant for the local American Legion, heard the government’s call to lower flags to half-mast. He said he immediately phoned fellow Legion members to ask them to call others and spread the word.

Hiebert said he was displaying the flag “out of respect and out of patriotism.”

Donna Hamm felt the same surge. She and her husband, Lonnie, live south of Hillsboro on a picturesque farm. Their flag pole is located prominently in a field beside the house. The American flag can be seen easily from Indigo Road.

The Hamms fly their flag year round. But on the day of the attack, they immediately put their flag at half-mast.

The Hamm family has strong military ties.

“My father was a 20-year veteran,” she said. “My husband and I were both in the Air Force.”

Hamm said she would like to see more patriotism because she is proud of her country.

“Our hearts go out to all the victims,” she said. “(The attacks) brought tears to our eyes.”

This same desire to unite in support for the nation spawned a buying frenzy of flags in the area.

Even the Alco Discount Store in Hillsboro could not keep up with the demand for flags. Manager Ron Latta said by Thursday morning, two days after the attack, the store sold its last flag.

Outlets for volunteering

Groups and organizations assisted in the disaster. The Christian Ministries Council at Tabor College organized a blood drive for this week to help the Red Cross aid victims of the disaster.

The Sunflower Chapter, with an office in McPherson, was inundated with telephone calls from local people wanting to help.

Patti Robinson, chapter director, said the local organization was not scheduling emergency blood donation drives immediately following the Sept. 11 event.

“This is going to be an ongoing- type thing,” she said.

Blood is a perishable product, with a shelf life of only 52 days.

“We don’t want all of this blood donated in one day,” Robinson said.”We’re going to need it later.”

Robinson urged everyone to donate when the regularly scheduled blood mobiles are in their area.

Robinson said people can take other action besides donating blood. Some have asked if they could donate money for the disaster and Robinson welcomes this act of generosity.

“We caution people, when they send money in for disasters, not to be too specific where they want it to go,” she said.

Robinson said it is important to allow the relief organizations to make decisions based on the needs that arise.

Robinson also encouraged those wanting to help to consider becoming a disaster-relief volunteer in the future.

Focus in Schools

Adults weren’t the only ones affected by the attack on America. Children were, too.

At Hillsboro Elementary School, children in individual classrooms shared a “moment of silence” at 12:30 p.m. Friday, four days after the disaster.

On Monday, elementary staff and students were encouraged to wear red, white or blue in memory of victims and as a show of support for the survivors of the tragedy.

School officials said this was a way for the students to express themselves in a positive way.

At Hillsboro Middle School, as in other levels, children were allowed to watch on televisions in their classrooms as reports of the attacks and its aftermath unfolded.

At Hillsboro High School, Principal Dale Honeck said staff and students were notified that four jars placed around the school were available if they wanted to make donations to aid in the relief.

Tabor students respond

Staff and students at Tabor College also answered the call for unity and aid.

President Larry Nikkel organized a prayer meeting for 9 p.m. the day of the attack. More than 200 students gathered in the chapel.

Faculty chair Don Isaac, Lynn Jost, associate professor of biblical studies, and Judy Harder, assistant professor of communications and drama, led the group in prayers and scriptural responses.

Faculty led the gathering, but “it was mostly students who stood up to respond,” said Daryl Baltzer, director of student counseling. He said the prayer meeting gave students an opportunity to “talk to each other about some of the things they were struggling with.”

Students shared their feelings.

“All I can think about is the vistims’ families and friends,” said Nancy Miller, a junior from Partridge. “I can’t even imagine the heartbreak they are enduring.”

Kaylene Unruh of the dean of students’ office said two Tabor students had relatives who were in the World Trade Center complex at the time of the bombing.       

One female student learned her brother was in the building, but had gotten out in time.

A male student from Texas had an uncle in the World Trade Center complex on Tuesday. The uncle was still reported missing when the student headed home to be with family.

One group of Tabor seniors organized a fund-raiser that collected more than $2,000 for Immanuel Community Church, a Mennonite congregation located near the devastation in downtown New York City.

This urban Mennonite church was feeding about 1,000 rescue and volunteer workers a day during the days following the attack.

Class members, after learning about the congregation’s work from their professor, David Faber, decided to ask for donations at Saturday’s Tabor-Bethel football game.

Students and others were given the opportunity to donate an admission fee for the football game in lieu of the normal free admission. Players on both teams-on a volunteer basis-“paid to play” and made donations to the fund.

A total of $1,843.65 was collected the night of the game. According to Tabor’s business office, money was still coming in the following Monday, raising the total, so far, to $2,264.65.

In addition to holding prayer meetings and fund-raisers, Tabor canceled some sporting events.

Tabor athletic director Don Brubacher said the men’s and women’s soccer games, scheduled for Sept. 11 with the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma, were canceled by choice of the opposing team’s school administrators.

Even though “cancellation of the events does show respect for the victims and their families,” Brubacher said Tabor officials decided to proceed with the Tabor-Bethel football game to show unity as a nation and not “change our life situation” in response to terrorism.

“You continue on,” he said.

Calls for prayer

The call to “continue on” was also echoed in area churches.

The Hillsboro Mennonite Brethern Church responded with a prayer meeting last Wednesday evening.

Last week, the recorded message on the church’s prayer line said, “Our prayer room will be open throughout the day for those who would like to come and offer up words of prayer to God and for those who are hurting from the acts of Tuesday.”

In observance of President Bush’s “National Day of Prayer and Remembrance” last Friday, the Hillsboro Area Ministerial Alliance organized a community-wide prayer meeting.

The event took place at noon in the City Hall Building. A quiet room was set aside for people to sit with others in circles of prayer.

Leaflets were placed around the room stating: “In light of the destruction of property and lives and the physical and emotional trauma, please pray for those affected by this tragedy. Pray for our nation, our leaders, those injured, those who may still be alive and need rescued, those who lost loved ones, rescue workers, those who are responsible for this violence and peace in our world.”

At the Zion Lutheran Church, pastor John Ryding said he received a few calls during the week from parishioners whose loved ones were in the military and may be sent to the Middle East.

“They’re very concerned about them,” he said. “I tell them we will pray for their protection.”

Ryding also held a special prayer meeting as part of the church’s regular Sunday service.

“I’m setting aside what I usually do on Sunday for this service of prayer,” Ryding said. “We’re thankful for the people who survived and for those who are being found.”

Craft fair proceeded

Even as special services were planned for this past week, organizers of the Hillsboro Arts and Crafts Fair had to make a decision about the fair, scheduled for the Saturday following the terrorists’ attack.

Last week, the staff of the Chamber of Commerce in Hillsboro said their phone was ringing constantly. Callers wanted to know if the fair was still on.

In fact, according to the Chamber office, staff started answering the phone, “The fair is still on-how can we help you?”

Fair organizers decided the event was too big to call off. Reservations were made and all the plans were in place.

Fair director Donna Diener said about 16 vendors canceled the week prior to the fair.

“We had four who didn’t come because of the events of the week, she said. “Three of them were just simply afraid to travel; they were coming from out of state. One of them canceled on Tuesday because of the gas scare in Oklahoma.”

Diener said the crowd at the fair was smaller this year.

“I believe the police are estimating it around 35,000,” she said. Last year, the crowd was estimated to be 50,000.

But the weather held up, with only light misting off and on through the day.

Despite Saturday being in the shadow of a tragic week, life in this community moved ahead as people looked for some semblance of normalcy in a world gone suddenly and violently wrong.

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