Thursday, September 13, 2001 Volume 67, Issue 15


Emotions running high

Students feeling 'surreal,' 'eerie' in wake of terrorist attacks

By Jim Parsons
Daily Cougar Staff

The initial shock over Tuesday's terrorist attacks on New York City and
Washington, D.C., may have passed, but for many people, the real terror may just be beginning.

Across the nation Tuesday, Americans woke to continuing news coverage of the
attacks that heavily damaged the Pentagon and toppled the twin towers of the
World Trade Center. For some UH students, the reality of the situation was just
beginning to dawn.

"It's kind of surreal," said Rolan Lenus, a junior history major. "It still doesn't register
in my mind. It's like you are watching a movie."

Such emotions aren't unusual, said Dr. Edward Reitman, a Houston clinical
psychologist. He said people may find it difficult to sort out their feelings in the
wake of catastrophic events like Tuesday's.

"Human beings initially -- when they're faced with trauma, catastrophe, things that
are hard to comprehend -- deny," Reitman said.

But when the reality of the events sets in, Reitman said people must learn to face
their fears and concerns.

"When this occurs, you're going to have to accept the feelings, not deny them," he

Reitman said one of the most difficult emotions for Americans to handle after the
attacks is a loss of faith in the United States' stability and security. The sudden
feeling of vulnerability that comes with being attacked is difficult to cope with, he

"The country will never be the same. The old sense of total security that illusion
is totally gone forever, and I don't think that sense of invulnerability will ever occur
again," Reitman said.

Those emotions seemed to be the norm at UH on Wednesday. Although several
students said they didn't know how to react, others, like members of the Delta Phi
Omega sorority, put themselves to work trying to help the victims of the tragedy.

The sorority raised an estimated $350 to $400 for the American Red Cross on
Wednesday morning and afternoon at the PGH breezeway -- some in large
donations, some from students who only had change to spare.

"We just thought there was a huge need for college students to do this," said Mital
Brahmbhatt, the sorority's president. "It's eerie, because you haven't been touched
by something like this in America."

The sorority plans to man a donation table at the University Center today.

Aside from shock, the overwhelming feeling on campus was a desire for action.

"It is not only our national tragedy -- it is the whole world. It's symbolic," said junior
biology major Thao Pham. "We should prepare defense. We don't want war here."

That's exactly the sentiment Reitman said he hoped will lead America through the
fallout from this week's strikes to positive long-term effects.

"I believe we're going to see a sense of unity and a renewed desire to grow," he
said. "I'm hoping that this will serve as an impetus for people to look for leadership
and to demand things, to become more involved and active in selecting leaders
and in voting."

-- with additional reporting by Melissa Kummer

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