Fear is fresh fact of everyday life
By CRAIG PITTMAN, LOGAN D. MABE and LEONORA LAPETER
© St. Petersburg Times,
Mary Singer showed up for work Wednesday morning as if it were a normal day. But it wasn't normal, not by a long shot.
Singer, 50, of St. Petersburg was putting together 20 advertising banners to be towed behind airplanes that will probably not be allowed to fly over football games that may not take place.
She remained so shaken by Tuesday's tragedies that she yanked her 16-year-old daughter, Rebecca, out of school and brought her along to the hangar at Albert Whitted Municipal Airport, where she works for the Advertising Air Force.
"I want her with me," she said. "If something happens to her, it's going to happen to me at the same time. I don't feel safe."
Across Tampa Bay, people slipped uneasily back into the familiar routines of work and leisure. But after the bloodiest day in American history since the Civil War, the texture of everyday life remained frayed by worries about what the future holds.
Schools reopened, but the students formed prayer rings around the flagpoles. In class nobody was talking about the big game or who was dating whom. They were talking about death from the sky.
Morning drive-time FM radio turned into AM rant and rave. Instead of requesting the latest Britney Spears hit, callers were demanding carpet bombing.
In Hernando County, Spring Hill Regional Hospital saw a spike in the number of patients admitted for heart attacks and strokes, said Dr. R. Joseph Paquette, medical director of the emergency department. A normal day brings about six or seven to the ER, but the stress of Tuesday's tragedies led the hospital to admit 25 heart attack and stroke patients.
Patriotism and paranoia turned a profit at the Headquarters Army Navy store on Skipper Road in Tampa, where Jim Heath sold out of his entire stock of American flags and gas masks.
"One guy bought five gas masks for his family," Heath said. "He was quite adamant that I save five of them for him. We had calls galore for them. I asked if he was going somewhere where he might need them. He said no. He wanted them just in case something happens around here."
Eagle's Trading Co. north of Weeki Wachee saw a fourfold increase in sales of ammunition, rifles and handguns, said owner Ken Stewart.
"People had a lot of fear," he said. "They expressed themselves that we are being attacked . . . People are in a lot of panic and a lot of fear."
At Custom Jewelry and Pawn Inc. in Spring Hill, owner Ken Gariepy pulled the guns off his shelves after receiving several disturbing phone calls from people asking about "military weapons."
"They didn't say what they wanted to do," he said, "but they were acting a little paranoid like the world was coming to an end."
The state's major theme parks cranked up their fantasy factories again Wednesday. But park officials admitted they were under no delusions about a return to normalcy.
"Normal has been redefined," Walt Disney World spokesman Bill Warren said.
Tyrone Square Mall in St. Petersburg reopened its doors Wednesday, but few shoppers took advantage of its sales.
"The parking lot, it's like a ghost town," said Michelle Keglor, director of the Thomas Kinkade Seaside Cottage Gallery.
Unlike Tuesday, the gallery played Faith Hill over its stereo rather than news. So Keglor and other mall employees kept slipping into back offices to check their radios for the latest developments.
For once, crowds thronged Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, but not to see the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Hundreds showed up to donate blood there and at Legends Field in Tampa, standing patiently in line for hours on end.
The Devil Rays, like all other major-league ballclubs, have canceled games until further notice. Janet Jackson, after postponing her concert at the Ice Palace, canceled completely. National Football League officials said they would decide today what to do about upcoming games, including the Buccaneers'.
The Miami-Washington college football game scheduled for Saturday in Miami has been postponed. The Florida State University Seminoles said they would postpone their game against Georgia Tech until Dec. 1. However, the University of Florida Gators said they still plan to play Tennessee as scheduled Saturday.
After sending students home early Tuesday, all 11 of Florida's public universities were open Wednesday. At the University of South Florida, the Muslim student organization posted fliers throughout a busy common area to ensure everyone knew they condemned the attack and sympathized with the victims.
Nevertheless, 19-year-old sophomore Saad Altawed said he got into an argument in class Wednesday with students too angry to consider the consequences of taking revenge on the wrong people.
"You don't take it out on the entire Muslim civilization," said Altawed, born in Syria but now an American. "This is our country, too."
At the University of Florida, someone plastered the campus with hundreds of copies of an angry letter to Osama bin Laden, the Saudi terrorist named as a prime suspect in the attacks.
"You entreated your own supporters to kill themselves for your own gain while you were safe and unharmed. You, sir, are a coward," the letter said. It was signed "Perseveringly, the United States of America."
UF officials said several Islamic students reported being harassed since Tuesday's terrorist attack.
"They told us that people have yelled at them, telling them to go home," said Deborah Anderson, the coordinator UF's International Student Services. "Most of the students said they understand this is just a reaction to the situation."
In Tallahassee, the Capitol reopened but with gray-uniformed Leon County deputies standing guard with military-style weapons. Gov. Jeb Bush attended a morning Mass, along with his wife, Columba, Lt. Gov. Frank Brogan and three plainclothes agents from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Then he led a contingent of state officials donating blood.
The governor said he had not spoken to his brother, President George W. Bush, figuring he is much too busy. When someone asked Bush what Floridians could do to help, the governor said: "We can pray. Pray for the people that are victims, and family members and fire-rescue people that are working so hard. Pray for our country."
-- Times staff writers Saundra Amrhein, Barry Klein, Curtis Krueger, Steve Bousquet and Linda Gibson contributed to this story, which contains information from the Associated Press.
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Mary Jo Melone