Cheers, coupled with caution, greet news of U.S. strikes in Afghanistan

Sunday, October 7th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Cheers of ``USA! USA!'' echoed through the Atlanta Falcons' football stadium at news that U.S. forces had launched strikes in Afghanistan. In Denver, a woman who fled as a child from Vietnam ruefully wished that war could be avoided.

Across the nation, widespread support for the counterattack against terrorism was coupled with worries.

The president of the Mormon church choked with emotion as he reported the U.S. strikes to a conference of the faithful in Salt Lake City.

``Occasions of this kind pull us up sharply to the realization that life is fragile, that peace is fragile, that civilization is fragile,'' said Gordon B. Hinckley.

Tens of thousands of Americans heard the news while packed into stadiums for National Football League games and the close of baseball's regular season.

The start of the Philadelphia Eagles' NFL game against Arizona at Veterans Stadium was delayed nine minutes as President Bush's announcement of the strikes was shown on the big screen. The crowd of more than 64,000 cheered when they saw images of the military action.

At Miller Park in Milwaukee, baseball fans didn't see Bush on the scoreboard, but subdued players watched on clubhouse televisions.

``We all knew it was going to happen,'' said Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Mike De Jean. ``Baseball has been secondary since Sept. 11. I think we all want to get home and be with our families in times like this.''

The news soon spread into the stands.

``It's about time,'' said Dan Scheuerer of Beaver Dam, Wis. ``I hope we get (Osama) bin Laden. I also hope we can minimize the damage to innocent people.''

In Nashville, Ind., Charles King listened to reports of the attack as he parked cars on a lot that he runs.

``We knew this was going to happen,'' said King, 54. ``I don't want to live the rest of my life in fear, so we have to wipe them (terrorists) out.''

On duty in downtown Phoenix, police officer Greg Carnicle said America had to take a stand, or terrorism would continue.

``This is a wake-up call,'' he said. ``We as Americans have felt that we are invincible, but we are vulnerable like everyone else.''

In Chicago, Nora Murray, 30, got the news while on the way to an opera matinee. She worried that the U.S. strikes would draw retaliation.

``There's more to come,'' she said. ``Fighting Afghanistan is going to be very difficult.''

Retaliation seemed less a threat to Rich Clayton of West Deptford, N.J., who was playing football at a school athletic field. ``They've got the country so secure now, I don't think anything is going to happen,'' he said.

Lisa Deshazo, a volunteer at the Bayfest music festival in Mobile, Ala., had been expecting U.S. action.

``I'm concerned about a long war,'' she said. ``I have a 16-year-old son and if there's a long war, he could be drafted.''

At the Mormon general conference, Hinckley was handed a note about the U.S. strikes, then addressed the crowd.

``We are plunged into the state of war _ the first war of the 21st century,'' Hinckley said. ``This is not a matter of Christian against Muslim. ... Do not become a party in any way in the persecution of the innocent.''

Residents of the nation's largest Afghan community, in Fremont, Calif., reacted with a mix of joy and apprehension. Bin Laden is widely loathed there, but many Afghan immigrants fear relatives in their homeland will suffer during the conflict.

``The good thing is I am happy they started,'' said Homayoun Khamosh, owner of the Pamir Food Mart. ``And the bad thing is I don't want civilians dead for nothing.''

In Atlanta, Vietnam veteran William McGill said the United States ``should have gone in a long time ago and taken care of business.''

``Even at my age I am willing to go,'' said McGill, 55. ``I believe in my liberty and my freedom. If they need me, I'm there for them.''

The news saddened Lan To, 25, of Estes Park, Colo., a schoolteacher whose family fled from Vietnam when she was 2.

``We're in this country because we were leaving a war,'' she said. ``I never think war is the right thing to do. I never think violence is the right thing to do, but unfortunately there's not enough people in the world who think that.''