In the suburbs, Americans voice anger and fear

Aileen Cruz
Sunday 30 September 2001 00:00
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Lying almost in the shadow of America's tallest building, the Sears Tower in Chicago, the glass and chrome atriums of the Woodfield Mall encapsulate the carefree, spendthrift spirit of suburban America.

But the droves of shoppers streaming up and down the elevators and through the spinning doors seem jumpy and preoccupied.

America's most parochial and inward-looking community has lost its sunny "have a nice day" attitude, and is stricken with gloom by the knowledge that Americans are not as loved as they once thought they were.

Many suburbanites are plagued by feelings of vulnerability, and desperately want their government to do something – anything.

"It's plain and simple: government needs to take action," says Ann Gray, 31, manager of a leather store from the nearby suburb of St Charles. Ms Gray, who heard of the 11 September attack over the radio, was in tears that day. She says she is still devastated. "America is too cautious. We can't prevent everything, but if government was more aggressive and more on top of things it could have been different."

Chris Gombos, a theology graduate student, complains the US government has not taken vigorous action out of fears for the global economy. "We are too concerned with what everyone else will think," he says. "I'm angry about the loss of human life and I'm frustrated that nothing has been done yet. This is not the US versus terrorism, it's civilisation versus barbarism."

Illinois resident Carol Sasenberg, 43, says the recent freezing of terrorists' finances is worth little. "I'm angry that nothing has been done. I think the President should do what he said – go to the terrorist groups and take action."

Linda, a financial consultant, says the atrocity had changed her life. She would not give her last name because her husband is a secret service agent. "We've been complacent with our security," she said. "Now I don't take these things for granted like I did before."

But there are also Americans who would agree with Tim De Wine from Mount Prospect, Illinois. Mr De Wine, 48, an art gallery director who flies frequently to Europe, feels people should "go back to normal and show the terrorists what we're made of". A strong patriot, he has started presenting customers to his gallery with small US flags.

But he fears for his business and freely admits he thinks about the attacks "all the time". He is far more conscious about travelling and walking into public places now than before.

He talks of America going to war, but a strain of pessimism comes through. "Honestly, I don't see how we could possibly win a war," he says. "We're not fighting a fixed enemy.

"You can't destroy terrorism. You can't destroy ideas with guns. You could bomb Afghanistan to a burned-out cinder but it wouldn't stop anything. You get rid of one party and another one will rise up."

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