Attacks leave tourists shaken
By DEBORAH O'NEIL
© St. Petersburg Times,
CLEARWATER -- British tourist Sharon Moxon stood alone on the deck of the Adam's Mark hotel Wednesday morning, staring into the surf through sunglasses adorned with Mickey Mouse.
Thoughts of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington won't go away, Moxon said. With three days of her Florida vacation left, Moxon, 46, said she will simply try to pass the time until she can get home.
"You feel you shouldn't be enjoying your vacation," Moxon said. "You feel guilty when Americans are obviously suffering."
On Clearwater Beach, host to thousands of international visitors, radios and televisions broadcast the news around the clock. Tourists said they were sharing in America's horror and shock as the news overshadowed their holidays.
"What happens to them is our pain also," said Evelyn Lopez, 42, of Puerto Rico. "In your heart, there's sadness."
Nigel Stevenson, 55, and Felicity Counsell, 43, both from Great Britain, said they ate at a normally busy beach restaurant Wednesday night and found it almost empty. The news of the day left them "incredulous, followed by a feeling of horror," Stevenson said.
Inside the restaurant, the television was on.
"The president came on and the whole restaurant just went silent and listened," Counsell said. "There was a round of applause at the end of his speech. It was quite strange to be part of that as a non-American."
Claire Speller was at Busch Gardens in Tampa on Tuesday with three other visitors from England when she learned what had happened. They were ushered out of the amusement park when it closed early.
"It's, like, surreal," said Speller, 28. "When Princess Diana got killed, it was the same kind of feeling. Television coverage in the same way."
As the four walked along Clearwater Beach, they echoed the sentiments of many: astonishment that such an atrocity could occur in the United States.
"If you head into the Middle East you'd be scared, but when you head to America you think you're all right," said Vicki Speller, 30, Claire Speller's sister.
"That's one of the reasons so many people come to America: There's no real threats," Claire Speller added.
Belgian tourist Roger Maes, 34, said he visited the nation's capital just last week before coming to Clearwater to spend time with a friend. Like other tourists, Maes said the terrorist attack had consumed his vacation time.
"We spent three or four hours in front of television and this morning looked at the newspaper," Maes said, speaking from his friend's home. "We are in front of television right now. It's a real disaster."
Some visitors said they were concerned about traveling home. Rosemary and Andrew McBride are scheduled to fly back to England today. The couple headed to Publix on Wednesday to buy snacks for an anticipated wait at the airport.
"I never thought I'd say I'm frightened to fly, but I really am," said Mrs. McBride, 57. "I'm really frightened to go on a plane."
Ram and Jag Mahal also are heading back to England today and said they expect plenty of extra security checks. Still, Mrs. Mahal, 23, said Tuesday's events have left her feeling uneasy.
"Yesterday we were walking under a bridge and I could hear these noises and it didn't click that it was cars. I was like, "What's that? Is that a plane?' " she said. "I'm not going to feel safe until I get home."
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