Sat, May 25

Shock and dismay over terrorist attacks<br>Verde Valley people respond to East Coast horror

Clarkdale Mayor Andy Vircsik said, "I was shocked like everybody else." However, he said, "We can't buy into any kind of fear that this brings."

The mayor said people need to do two things: Make sure any family members or friends in the attack areas are safe and "pray for leaders around the world to have wisdom."

"This is not the time for a power play," said Vircsik. "We have to elevate ourselves above our base fears and hatred, and we need to move into prayerful compassion for everybody affected."

"We need to go about our business," he said, adding that people can't let their towns be brought to a standstill. He also said people need to remember that their communities have emergency-preparedness planning to deal with emergencies.

"We need to reach out and help in any way we can," said the Clarkdale mayor.

Camp Verde Mayor Brenda Hauser said she gets up early every day, about 5 a.m., and had started watching TV early as the events unfolded. At first, she thought it was a terrible accident, she said, and then was "stunned" when she realized the World Trade Center and Pentagon had been purposely hit.

"I'm sad. I can’t even imagine all the people lost and injured," she said.

The mayor said she couldn't understand the inhumanity of the terrorist acts and had difficulty getting ready to go to a scheduled meeting.

"It's a war; it's too big, too damaging, to ignore," said Hauser, speculating that major repercussions will result.

There must be something everyone in the United States can do, she said, "some small thing to do to get us through this."

"We all have to pray, Hauser said, adding, "They are already asking for blood."

Schools react

Classes at local schools apparently remained on regular schedules Tuesday despite the national chaos.

As students filed into Verde Valley campuses, the weight of the morning's tragedies replaced the usual pre-bell chitchat. With flags at half-mast and counselors and crisis teams available, district leaders prepared to help students in distress. All the districts reportedly observed a moment of silence.

Clarkdale-Jerome School District's superintendent and principal, Bill Kelly, said, "Children are very sensitive to tragedies. Students want to understand why people do that; they're concerned and have a deep feeling toward those who were injured."

The district's teachers and counselors would be available throughout Tuesday for support, he said.

Todd Wilson, a junior at Mingus Union High School, watched as a continuous feed of news was broadcast Tuesday from a small television set in the high school's counseling office.

"I can't believe this could happen," he said. "I don't know what to think. We have thought we were so invincible for so long."

Like many students, Wilson said he learned of the attacks before his first hour and watched as events unfolded. "I just barely made it to school on time," he said.

Counselor Anita Glazar noted that the events in New York City and Washington were perhaps the students' first experience with such a monumental crisis.

"This will be their national catastrophe," she said. "We'll all remember where we were when this happened. We want to ease students' anxiety and help calm them."

Some students with relatives or friends in New York left the Mingus campus Tuesday, while others sought comfort in friends.

"They don't teach you to handle this in administration 101," said Mingus Principal Hal Alford. "There are no rules. How can you begin to give reasons for insanity?"

"All of us are here to help these young adults we work with," he said, adding that counselors would be available throughout the day.

Principals at the Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District met before school and were advised to present as normal a day as possible, said Superintendent John Tavasci. "We are assuring kids they are safe here," he said, noting that all the district's counselors and crisis teams were on alert.

Marilyn Semones, superintendent of the Camp Verde School District, said high-school girls and boys soccer games with Chino Valley had been canceled, as had the volleyball game against Wickenburg at the high school and a middle-school cross-country meet.

Also canceled, she said, was a teachers' curriculum meeting, originally scheduled for after school Tuesday. Instead, teachers would go home to be with their families, she added.

The superintendent also said, "We think, in the wake of an enormous tragedy, normalcy will help students the most."

"We're at war, and we don't know who it is that we're at war with…it's just a lot of emotion, a great sense of loss for all the people (who) have lost their lives today," said Semones. "We'll just help each other get through it."

At Camp Verde Elementary School, Principal Bill Lee said the school observed a moment of silence for the victims of the attacks.

The school previously had planned to stage a "lockdown" emergency drill, he said, but it was canceled to help calm students.

Since teachers arrived at the school early, said Lee, they greeted students as they exited school buses and on the playground, finding that most children had no knowledge of the attacks.

At Beaver Creek School, which has students from kindergarten through eighth grade, Principal Judy McBride called a meeting Tuesday morning to discuss the incident with her staff. While she speculated that older students likely would have an opportunity to discuss the attacks with teachers, she had no comment on what teachers might say to younger children.

At Camp Verde High School, an office aide said that it was "solemn around campus."

"Students keep coming into the office, asking, 'Has there been any change?'" she said, adding that the U.S. flag at the high school was being lowered.

The Verde Independent was unable to reach Jerome Mayor Jay Kinsella for comment before press time Tuesday.

(Reporters Paula Blankenship, Jake Cavey, Raquel Hendrickson, Carol Keefer, Lindsey Moll and Guinda Reeves contributed to this story.)