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Americans in Small Towns Feel Safe, But Still Worry About Terrorists


United States government officials have been telling the American people to be alert for more terrorist attacks, but also to live normal lives. People living in small American towns might feel safer than those who live or work in big cities, but terrorism is still something rural Americans think and talk about.

A freight train rolls through Manteno, Illinois, a town of about 6,400 people surrounded by cornfields 80 kilometers south of Chicago. There are plenty of signs that the terrorist attacks of September 11 are on people's minds: American flags hang in store windows, and from front porches and automobile antennas. But for people like Juanita Green, the threat of more attacks is not something that keeps them awake at night. "Because it is a nice little town. The police are always around. You always see them all over the place," she said.

Bill Mansfield says the threat of future attacks does concern him some, but not because he feels unsafe in Manteno. "Because I look at Chicago and the high-rises up there, especially Sears Tower. That worries me some," he said. "There is an enormous number of people who work there, some of them from Manteno. It does worry me as far as that is concerned."

Most of the people we talked to said their daily routines have not been changed by the terrorist attacks or the threat that more could happen. Salesman Bob Williams is one exception. He does a lot of business by mail, and admits to thinking a bit about anthrax. He closely examines letters and packages he receives, and makes sure everything he ships is clearly labeled and sealed, so that his packages do not frighten their recipients.

Mr. Williams says the government's warning of a possible attack in the near future does not worry him, though he wishes officials could be a bit more specific. "I do not mind knowing, but I would want more specifics, if they have them. Then those particular areas can pay more attention, instead of a broad-based, blanket thing they are trying to make everyone watch out for," he said.

Inside a coffee shop called "My Sister's," Phil Russo sits with several local men at a table by the window. He says the government's warnings of future attacks, and what he considers the media's over-reporting of them, do little more than frighten people.

"You put enough scare tactics and people are afraid to make a move. I see it in my grandchildren, I see it in my own children," he said. "They do not want you to send anything in the mail to them, they are afraid of this, they are afraid of that. Who is winning this? We aren't. They are. They have accomplished what they wanted to do."

Mr. Russo says he is bitter that the Clinton administration did not do more to break up the al-Qaida terrorist network during the 1990's. The administration blames Al-Qaida and its leader, Osama bin Laden, for the September 11th attacks.

Across the table, Glen Culvert says he is satisfied with the Bush administration's response so far, and disagrees with those who say the war against terrorism is moving too slowly. He says President Bush and his team have accomplished a lot since September 11. "They are dealing with more legislation and more problems in the last seven weeks than we have dealt with in the last 20 years," he said. "And, every one of them are something new that we have never dealt with before."

Outside the coffee shop, Bill Mansfield says his days as a U.S. Marine during World War II convinced him that you can not hurry a military campaign. "We had battles in the South Pacific where we thought we were going to walk right up onto the shore and take over and it didn't happen," he said.

He says too many Americans seem to expect the sort of quick victory that U.S.-led forces achieved in driving Iraqi troops out of Kuwait in 1991. He says President Bush has been urging patience since the start of the war against terrorism, and that Americans should take that advice.

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