By Jennifer Grimes
and Kent Gray
Triplicate staff writers
Swirling red and blue lights, a barricade and an armed sheriffs deputy greeted people trying to get to the Crescent City airport yesterday.
It was the first time in history that Jack McNamara Field had been shut down for security reasons, according to Ernie Perry, Del Norte Countys director of Community Development.
And it was one of the only obvious signs that Del Norte County was affected by the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and and the Pentagon in Washington D.C. yesterday.
Children went to school, county government officials went on with their meetings and restaurant workers served breakfast and dinner.
But not without reflecting on the unbelievable events and why they happened.
Its just like a bad dream, said county supervisor Chuck Blackburn during a break in their regular meeting yesterday morning.
Before starting the meeting, chairperson Martha McClure asked everyone to pause for a moment of silence in observance of the Americans who lost their lives in the tragedy.
The mood of the proceedings was somber. County Counsel Bob Black mentioned his son was in Manhattan yesterday morning and was flying to Philadelphia en route to California. Fortunately, Blacks son was safe, though stranded.
Students from Del Norte High School gathered at their usual lunch spots along Pebble Beach Drive yesterday, but the conversations were a little more serious.
It was shocking. I started hearing about it as soon as I got up this morning. It seemed like it was one thing after another, said senior Shannon Wallen.
Wallen and her fellow students said nearly every classroom was showing news coverage of the events in Washington D.C. and New York.
Teachers led discussions about the impact of the terrorist attacks.
When asked what they took from those conversations, Morgan Conner and Wallen said its important not to jump to conclusions about the national origins of the suspected terrorists.
Its like when the Oklahoma bombing happened. Everyone automatically thought it was Middle Easterners, but it wasnt, Conner said.
Younger students had different concerns.
There were a few thinking we better be careful because now a big hoard of terrorists are going to attack.
I went to every classroom in the school to make sure no one had any major concerns and answered a bunch of questions to help them get it into perspective, said Redwood School Principal Gary Hudson.
Local principals and school district leaders decided together that primary-age students werent ready to see the news coverage, but that some of the older students should watch history in the making.
Each teacher with classes above fourth-grade was allowed to decide what was best for their class.
School was not let out early and all the after-school programs went on as planned.
Many customers at Wal-Mart were just learning of the tragedy yesterday morning when the images on store television sets leapt off the screen.
All I can say is its incredible, thats about it. Its a real headshaker, said Mike Radley, a Eureka resident who just learned of the disaster.
Herman Hunt of Brookings said the United States needs to react strongly. I think we need a complete and thorough investigation into this. And when we find out who is responsible, we make their countries glow like parking lots. I mean, a lot of people were killed. What I want to know is how the hell did they get those weapons on board to do all this?
Its a sign of the times, I guess. I imagine its going to get worse, said one woman who did not wish to be identified.
Across town at K-Mart, customers reacted with astonishment as they watched the images, on a battery of television sets, of the World Trade Center buildings collapsing.
I just want to know what peoples major malfunction is, said Mike Jones of Crescent City. I cant imagine the level of insanity that would cause somebody to do something like this.
Nancy Curry said she and her son didnt want to make the trip from Grants Pass yesterday morning, but they didnt want to let the disaster change their plans.
It makes you feel kind of insecure in your own country, it does wake you up though. We take it for granted that youre so free in your own country that everybody is so safe here. Its devastating. Its just terrible.