Local students uneasy about war on terrorism

Published: Friday, November 1, 2002 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, October 31, 2002 at 10:41 p.m.
Confronted by fears of a worsening economy and the possibility of a prolonged war, some Alachua County high school students still have a hard time dealing with America's new assault on global terrorism.
"We're supposed to still be kids," said Crystal Swick, a Santa Fe High School 12th-grader. "We are going to remember Desert Storm, but the reality for us - that the person sitting next to you could be taken away - is scary. If we did go to war and a bad outcome came to us, everything would be turned upside down."
At Santa Fe and Eastside high schools recently, students said facing their world after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks has been difficult and at times unreal. Many said they were willing to stand up for the United States, but were worried about what would follow.
"I believe we should take any action that needs to be taken," said Santa Fe High School 12th-grader Curtis Loftus. "We know all these things could potentially happen, so are we going to sit back and say we should've done something?"
"It's not a bad thing," said classmate Mark Magura. "It's just what we have to do."
One school guidance counselor said re-instituting a military draft was unlikely.
"The first thing they do is call up all the reserves," said Richard Stalbaum, a guidance counselor at Santa Fe High School and infantry lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve. "If there was a need for a greater draw, (the draft) would have to be voted on by Congress at the recommendation of the president. We don't know what kind of force we're going to have to use."
Stalbaum added that the Army was much larger during the Gulf War when, "We didn't have to use a lot strength because (the president's) father went in with enough force to take care of it within 72 hours."
He said the country is in the process of rebuilding its armed forces after those numbers were reduced under the Clinton Administration and that military strength is currently maintained at 80 percent.
Some students at Eastside just don't believe in the mission of President Bush, however.
"I think it's very unnecessary because if you follow what's happened before with his father, this is not going to really work," said Eastside High School 11th-grader Claire Sunquist. "I think Bush is trying to distract people from the economy. What gives us the right to play policeman to the world?"
"I don't think they need to go to war," said EHS 11th-grader Lorenza Simmons. "Two wrongs don't make a right. They can solve it other ways. We've got our own problems right here in this country."
"(Hussein) has done this before and denied us access to his country, and we already know it's not going to work," said EHS 11th-grader Lucy Sumners. "There's always going to be somebody else we'll have to go after."
During an honors economics class at Santa Fe, the majority of students nodded in agreement when others said they initially thought the destruction of the World Trade Center towers was a joke.
"We've just been watching the aftershocks," said 12th-grader Jessica Dobbins. "It still seems like a movie."
"We've been raised to realize that we have it so good and wonderful and that everything in history has been so bad," said Santa Fe 12th-grader Tiffany Wheaton. "That's changing."
Overall, the students in the class seemed resentful of the implications that a war on terrorism could bring them for years to come.
"This is kind of a slap in the face of reality after you've learned about all the other wars," echoed Kelsi Shannon, a 12th-grader at Santa Fe.
"We're not even living in the real world yet. We don't have bills to pay."
Others believe that an older generation should not make decisions for them, particularly when it comes to waging war.
As for what decision will ultimately be made, most students acknowledged it will force them to grow up quickly.
"If this is to protect and safeguard the world, then it's our duty," said Santa Fe 12th-grader Matt Mosher.
"The older we get, the more real the idea of war gets. It's kind of like a chess game right now. It all depends on who strikes first."
Cathi Carr can be reached at 374-5086 or carrc@ gvillesun.com

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