News of retaliation breaks into Sunday routines

Many in Maryland voice their support

War On Terrorism

America Reacts

October 08, 2001|By Stephanie Desmon and Laurie Willis | Stephanie Desmon and Laurie Willis,SUN STAFF

On a sunny afternoon in Baltimore - a world away from nighttime in Afghanistan, where U.S. and British forces launched missile and bomb attacks - Miss Little Italy waved from her convertible in the Columbus Day Parade yesterday, her star-spangled scarf blowing in the wind.

A few blocks from the downtown parade, pretzel vendors hawked their wares above the din of the tens of thousands who gathered, many draped in Ravens purple, for a Sunday football game.

All seemed normal until word of the retaliatory strikes raced through the crowds. Steve Sword, who watched the Randallstown High School Marching Rams stride by, heard the news on the radio as he rode in from his home in Timonium. Joann Phillips of Dundalk got a cellular phone call from her husband as she sat in the football stands with her 7-year-old daughter. Mitch L. Strong of Bel Air wasn't sure something big had happened until President Bush appeared on the giant screens at PSINet Stadium during halftime.

After taking a deep breath, many expressed strong support for the actions being taken against terrorists hiding in Afghanistan, though that was tinged with worries that angering the suspected masterminds of the attacks of Sept. 11 could invite a deadlier round of attacks.

"I think it'll put a lot of people's minds at ease," Phillips said, her daughter, Rachael Parks, at her side eating cotton candy and wearing a pint-sized Ray Lewis jersey. "But it'll happen again. Where? I don't know, and God help us when it does."

In front of War Memorial Plaza, about 100 people turned out for a previously scheduled anti-war protest - a demonstration denouncing military strikes and the president who authorized them.

Lorig Charkoudian, 28, wore a T-shirt that read: "Why do we kill people who kill people to show that killing people is wrong?" Signs in the crowd read: "Bush Should Be Behind Bars For His War Crimes," "Don't Kill For Me" and "An Eye For An Eye Makes The Whole World Blind."

"First of all, we grieve for all of the victims here in the United States, and we have pained feelings for all of the family members, particularly children who lost their mother, father or both," said Max Obuszewski, spokesman for the Baltimore Anti-War Coalition, which organized the protest. "But we don't think war is the way to solve this. It's going to bring more terrorism, more victims."

The strikes, though, didn't seem to surprise anyone after weeks of ratcheted-up White House rhetoric about the threat of Osama bin Laden, his band of terrorists and how wrong it is for the Taliban government in Afghanistan to harbor them.

"Like they said, it was inevitable," Obuszewski said. "Bush, like his father, doesn't understand peace, justice or international law. We're calling for justice, not vengeance."

Ken Smith, 40, was in the plaza while the demonstration was under way. A construction worker living temporarily at The Helping Hand Mission, he applauded the military moves.

"I think that's outstanding because of all those people that died," Smith said.

"I think this country should be more like Israel in terms of retaliating for crimes against the nation. ... Talk is cheap. Action is invaluable."

Food, not war, was on the mind of diners at The Helmand, Baltimore's premier spot for Afghan food, on North Charles Street in Mount Vernon. There was a small American flag in one of the restaurant's windows, but workers there were more interested in telling patrons the night's dinner specials than fielding questions about the bombing of Kabul, the capital.

"We have no television or radio here," said Assad Akbari, a manager, who was busy seating customers the minute the restaurant opened at 5 p.m. "It's too early to know what's going on," he said of the situation in his home country.

Bill Mercer, a Pasadena man who served in the Air Force at the close of World War II, said that in some respects, he is hoping for a long-term war - one in which the country follows through to the finish. America's failures, as he sees them, in the Vietnam and Persian Gulf wars are the reason the country is in the position it is today.

"I hope we see this one through," Mercer said after the Columbus Day Parade passed by. "We'll have to stay with it longer, much longer."

Tonya Day, a mother of two from Mount Airy, said she knew something had to be done about terrorism long before Sept. 11.

"This was the spark that set them on fire to go get [bin Laden]," she said. "It's high time that he get his.

Said James C. Miller, a World War II veteran who lives in Bowie and was shopping yesterday at Annapolis Mall: "We lost more people in the twin towers than we did at Pearl Harbor. You can't sit back and let people do what they did to us without doing something about it."

Sun staff writers Greg Garland and Michael Scarcella contributed to this report.

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