College students unite in grief, hope


September 26, 2001|By Heather Tepe | Heather Tepe,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

HOWARD COMMUNITY College students from Pakistan, India, Iran, Egypt, Liberia, South Korea, Haiti and the United States came together last week to offer words of tolerance, hope and courage at a ceremony honoring the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Seeking ways to share their grief and show national solidarity, students and faculty lighted "unity" candles and penned personal messages in condolence books that will be sent to New York and to the Pentagon.

"I just can't get over it," said Kristen Sanders, a cheerleader at HCC. "This stuff doesn't really happen in America. It normally happens in other countries. I feel so bad for all the families that have been devastated by this."

HCC cheerleaders sold red, white and blue tie-dyed T-shirts with profits going to the American Red Cross. The Student Government Association is encouraging students to give blood. The college has also held group counseling discussions to help students and staff members deal with the aftermath of the traumatic events.

"Last week was devastating, absolutely stunning. We were numb," faculty member Vladimir Marinich said.

Mary Ellen Duncan, president of HCC, said that many faculty members have discussed the attacks in class. "People feel distracted and unfocused. It's a good safety valve," she said.

Duncan said HCC has nearly 6,000 students enrolled this fall. She said that figures from last year show the student body includes 500 students from 70 countries.

Student Maboud Ebrahimzadeh, born in Iran, expressed the range of emotions many are feeling.

"The events of last week really scared me. The feeling of gut-wrenching terror, that was what we all shared," he said. "But at the same time, the courage and might that people shared was amazing to me."

Students speaking at the ceremony - including Ebrahimzadeh, Neetika Sharma, Azeem Bhutta, Lisa Hess, Kristina Banko, Rood Bellavoir, Mohab Mansour, A.J. Usog and Harris Johnson - focused on positive and encouraging words, but privately Ebrahimzadeh shared concerns about harassment of individuals of Middle Eastern descent.

"The day after the attacks, I was waiting in line at a store," he said. "The guy in front of me turns around, looks at me and just glared with a mean look on his face. He started saying, not to anybody directly, `These Middle Eastern people are here terrorizing this country, parading in the street.' He turned, looked directly at me and spit right in my face. I felt ashamed that people don't understand this.

"Of course, this is a horrible tragedy, but when you take that and ball it up into a little ball of anger and throw that at one person who had nothing to do with it, words can't even describe it," he continued. "You can't take one thing that happened and disperse it upon a group of people because of how they look or what their religion is. I'm a citizen here just like anybody else. We're supposed to be united. This is the United States. That's what it means. We're a brotherhood of people."

Local aid

Everybody wants to do something to help in the aftermath of the attacks. Jackie Klamerus, assistant principal at Pointers Run Elementary School, reports that last week schoolchildren and staff members collected $4,000 in a "Change for Champions" drive at the school.

Members of the Howard County Fire Department picked up the donations Friday and will deliver the money to the New York Fire Department.

Jeff Ditter, owner of Bun Penny Market and Cafe at The Mall in Columbia, has been selling hard-to-find American flags at his store, with the money going to the American Red Cross. In addition, Ditter and his staff have kept Red Cross volunteers and blood donors supplied with coffee, hot chocolate, sandwiches and pastries.

"People were standing in line so long that their blood sugar was getting too low to donate," he said.

The Columbia Community Players will donate the proceeds from the opening of "Night Watch," a thriller set in New York City, to the American Red Cross.

The play opens at 8 p.m. Friday at Slayton House in Wilde Lake Village Center. Tickets are $12. Information or reservations: 410-637-5289.

Celebrating life

For the 11th year, hundreds of children and their families gathered at Martin's West Sunday for Howard County General Hospital's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit reunion.

Each year, former patients and their parents renew ties with the doctors and nurses who provided care at the beginning of their lives.

Rebecca Dubbs, parent of a child who "graduated" from the NICU and president of the NICU Parent Group, said, "These babies had a tough start in the beginning and received wonderful care at the NICU. It's literally a celebration of their lives."

The hospital plans to open a larger, state-of-the-art NICU next summer. The new unit will be on the hospital's second floor, adjacent to the new labor and delivery suites and the maternal-child unit.

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