High school students brace for the future after Sept. 11

By Julie Fann
star staff
jfann@starhq.com

  
While the world goes about its business, whether at peace, or at war, high school students are still high school students. They make plans. They dream. They maintain hope for the future.
   The events of Sept. 11 impacted local teenagers. Nevertheless, those interviewed said they are maintaining confidence concerning the days ahead while still experiencing some apprehension.
   "I will still set out and do the best I can in life. I'll go to college, get a job, and support my family," said Unaka High School junior, Andrew Richardson. "I think Bush is making a lot of progress. I think he will settle this once and for all."
   Richardson said he heard about the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center when he returned from his lunch break. Although he recalled feeling distraught, he focused on the patriotism that has resulted from the tragedy.
   "It scared me a little, but it didn't accomplish what it set out to do, which was to spread us apart. It made me feel closer to everybody -- to my family and friends," he said.
   Erik Rucker, also a high school junior, echoed Richardson's sentiments that, for all of the pain and suffering Americans have experienced during the past year, growth has occurred.
   "It's sad that it took a tragedy like this to make us all feel patriotic. Now, we have flags waving. I'm glad it happened, but I'm sad that it took a tragedy to make it happen," said Rucker, who plans to join the Air Force and study to become a commercial airline pilot.
   "It's kind of ironic, I know, after all that's happened," he said.
   What worries Rucker is the prospect of America going to war with Iraq. "I'm a little nervous because I'll be 18 in a couple of months, and I might have to go. But if I have to go, I have to go," he said.
   Rucker believes a possible war with Iraq may stop the killing of innocent people, and he confidently spoke of the strength America has to win the war.
   Abby Hicks, a sophomore who plans to attend culinary school in Charleston, S.C., said she feels people will continue on with their lives and eventually forget the tragedy of what happened that day.
   "I guess we will just go on and people will forget about it like they have other things," she said. "A lot of my friends that graduated last year joined the Army. I wouldn't want to go to war, but if we had to I'd be perfectly OK with it."
   Christy Gouge, a senior, plans to go to law school at the University of Richmond eventually. Her dream is to become a prosecuting attorney. At first, she thought news of the terrorist attacks was a joke her classmates were playing on her.
   "I said, 'What are you talking about? You're so joking. Don't even tell me that.'" Gouge said her classmates discussed what happened during history class, but it didn't really affect her, she said, because it happened so far away.
   However, because her father is a firefighter, Christy said she came to appreciate him, and the important job he does, more.
   "I do have sympathy for the firefighters because my dad is one. I don't want to lose my father. I'm very attached," she said.
   Patriotism, Gouge feels, has significantly waned over the past year. She reflected that it was unfortunate that tragedy must strike before certain people are even noticed, let alone appreciated. Gouge also expressed concern over a possible escalating war.
   "That is one thing I'm scared of is another world war. Don't they say that when Republicans are in power a war always starts?"