The View from Here

The terrorist attacks of September 11 took place far away. But they hit close to home.

"It's a strange day," says his friend.

Yeahs all around.

The boys seem glad to be together. Across the street in the orange sunlight sits the cyber-café they hope will open soon. The Stomping Grounds, in Minneapolis's warehouse district, is the sort of posh, all-night Internet gaming center where algebra students do virtual battle with statisticians, playing against counterparts in other cities as they chug Red Bulls into the wee hours. In some ways, tonight will be no different from any other night, though the Web site says the café won't open until at least six o'clock, "in response to recent world events." It's ten past six now.

At seven, when the doors open, the boys ask if the evening's national tournament is still on. It is, they're told, and soon the boys are emptying animated machine guns into the virtual bodies of fellow high school students across the land. The game, called Counter-Strike, pits participants against one another on opposing teams: terrorists and counterterrorists. The main difference between the two (besides the choice of firearms--M4A1s or AK-47s) is the soldiers' treatment of civilians: Terrorists hold hostages, and kill them.

The game continues into the night, with the sound of explosions confined to headphones and the TV news playing quietly in the background.

--Peter S. Scholtes

 

 

TWENTY-SIX-YEAR-OLD IMAGES, faded, but not forgotten, washed over Neng Yang Tuesday. Like the rest of his adopted nation, the 42-year-old schoolteacher watched television in shock and horror. Transfixed by the sight of the thousands of people fleeing on foot through the streets and over the bridges of New York City, Yang envisioned his own Hmong people running from a different war.

"Those who walked across the Brooklyn Bridge, no car, they just start to walk," he recounts. "It was just like when we escape from our hometown to other towns: across foothills, over mountains, to a valley, cross a river, to another village." Lower Manhattan bears little resemblance to Yang's village in Laos, a homeland he escaped when he was just 15 years old. Instead of thickets of trees and looming mountains, New York has blocks of storefronts and hulking skyscrapers. But in the ruins of the collapsed World Trade Center, Yang saw the rubble of his village, obliterated by missiles. In the flames that engulfed the crash scenes in New York and Washington, D.C., Yang saw the tin roofs of his town's huts, burning like scraps of paper. In the screams of terrified onlookers and victims, he heard his fellow villagers crying, their dogs barking.

"Suffering and pain are about the same," he muses.

Yang, who is now a U.S. citizen, never expected to see such scenes on these shores. But, he says, he has witnessed the sort of American arrogance that might fuel hatred in other quarters. "They say, 'Have no fear of anyone.' That challenge was going too far," he says. "You challenge the world--say you're best, have no fear, don't give respect to anyone or other cultures--that angers people around the world.

"People in this country still have their narrow minds," he observes. "Certain individuals are still displaying that kind of ignorance." He worries that the attacks will spark a backlash of prejudice against Muslims, Arabs, possibly all immigrant groups. But still he holds out hope that the tragedy will spawn consideration and kindness rather than rage and further violence. "I hope the U.S. will be more awakening, and show more respect to people around the world," he says. "Consider other people: They too are human beings."

For now Yang focuses on comforting his students in the classroom, and his family at home. On the day of the attacks, his ten-year-old daughter grew increasingly terrified by the depictions of mayhem. Yang reassured her that the terrorists were not coming to Minneapolis, that the U.S. government would find the people who are responsible. But as he remembers the thunder of missiles crashing around his childhood home, he is painfully aware that while he had been able to protect his six kids from experiencing the war he grew up with, he can't shield them from the panic that surrounds these acts of terrorism. "They have limited knowledge," he says. "They react to it. But they don't know much about war."

--Leyla Kokmen

 

 

TOM ECKHOFF IS 52 YEARS old, married, the father of three. He works as a driver for Better Care Lines, transporting elderly and handicapped people around the Twin Cities. During the Vietnam War, Eckhoff served as an airborne ranger, completing a one-year tour of duty. As Eckhoff puts it, he had "gleaming eyeball" contact with the enemy. He was shot at many times, but never wounded. Others in his unit were not so lucky.

On the night the Gulf War broke out, Eckhoff recalls, he was playing drums in a band at a bar in Eagan. He remembers looking up at the television sets scattered around the room and seeing the surreal light show of tracers and bombs. Memories of Vietnam flooded his mind. "It was hard to focus with that going on," he says in a quiet rasp.

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