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Southern Plains reaction ranges from shock, panic to anger

Residents of the Southern Plains region were especially hard hit by the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C.

The burning buildings and panic in the streets brought the horror of the Oklahoma City bombing back to what had been the only area in the country previously victim of a terrorist attack.

For others it brought anger as they thought of what the horrors of war had already cost the American Indian people.

Shock and indignation came from many tribal leaders as they watched the horror unfolding on the East Coast. The Cherokee Nation was swift to release a statement regarding the terrorist attacks. 'We at the Cherokee Nation watched in horror as the attack unfolded before our eyes on live television,' Principal Chief Chad Smith said. 'We are Cherokees, but we are also Americans, and this unprovoked attack both saddens and angers us.'

Chief Greg Pyle of the Choctaw Nation likened the attacks to Pearl Harbor. 'I agree this is a second Peal Harbor. You look at the parallels there, it is a surprise attack on America.'

Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby reacted to the attacks saying, 'I am deeply shocked by the events of Sept. 11, 2001. We send our heartfelt sympathy and prayers to the people of this great nation who have been so tragically affected by this senseless act of terrorism.

'We pledge our support, energy and strength as we join our fellow Americans in the recovery before us and for the inevitable triumph of the greatest nation in the world.'

The fire circle was lighted at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kan., and stayed lighted for four days. A prayer ceremony was held on the campus on the day following the attack. Counselors were available for students at Haskell and at the University of Kansas.

The swiftness and accuracy of the attacks left people in the Heartland reeling, not knowing where to go or what to do next. By early afternoon on Sept. 11, following reports that terrorists were believed to have come from the Middle East, lines began to form at gas stations in Oklahoma and Kansas.

In Wichita, Kan., one eyewitness watched as gas prices went from $1.62 per gallon to $7 per gallon in less than an hour. In Topeka, Kan., price gouging was obvious as gas stations raised prices to $4 or $5 per gallon. In Tulsa, Okla., there were reports of $6 per gallon gasoline. Unsubstantiated reports from Oklahoma had gasoline going for a reported $8 per gallon for a short time.

As rumors of rising gas prices hit motorists, long lines formed at the pumps. In

Overbrook, Kan., a small town 20 miles south of Topeka, police directed traffic as drivers lined up for hours to purchase gas. At the Casey's gas station in Overbrook a clerk reported that more than $11,000 worth of gasoline was sold the day of the attacks.

Overbrook is a town with fewer than 2,000 residents. Police officers reported altercations and fights over gas were reported at other towns in the area.

'This is crazy,' Overbrook Police Chief Ed Harmison said. 'People are panicking because of rumors.'

Students at Haskell Indian Nations University who started getting phone calls from friends and family in the Wichita area ended up in long lines at gas stations in Lawrence as the rumors spread.

Although many gas stations in Oklahoma and Kansas ran out of gas temporarily, it is reported that panic and rush to buy is what caused it, not a shortage. Refineries in Oklahoma are operating under heightened security, but have not cut back on production or on the supply of gasoline going out to gas stations in the two-state area.

For a short time some grocery stores had runs as people rushed to buy flour, sugar and other staples. 'This is Y2K all over again,' one man said as he watched the lines at the gas stations in Overbrook. 'Lawrence was just as bad, it took me over an hour to drive six blocks.'

Only stern admonishments and threats from the attorney general in Kansas stopped the panic at the pumps. In Oklahoma, the governor's office also made a statement to allay people's fears about a possible gas shortage. Consumers were asked to report incidents of price gouging and station owners were threatened with large fines and possible prosecution for overcharging for gasoline.

Kansas City International Airport was like a ghost town following the grounding of all planes and the evacuation of the airport. In downtown Kansas City, home to several federal offices, barricades were set up and government workers were sent home. On the day after the attacks on the East Coast, offices reopened, but no parking was allowed in the downtown area. Skies above Kansas remained eerily quiet, no contrails showed in the bright September sky.

'After it happened there was a huge U-turn in the sky,' Harmison said. 'It was a guy going back to land in Kansas City after the planes had been grounded. For three hours there wasn't a vapor trail in the sky. Then I see one coming from the south, it was President Bush going to Omaha.'

The military post at Fort Leavenworth and the U.S. Federal Penitentiary at Leavenworth were under heightened security. The penitentiary is home to the terrorists convicted of the first bombing of the World Trade Center.

The Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation moved swiftly and gave the Red Cross $100,000 to aid in disaster relief in New York and Washington. Chairman Badger Wahwasuck released a statement praying for the victims and their families calling the terrorists cowards.

But Wahwasuck also wanted people to remember that American Indian people have fought over and over again for the United States, even back during World War I when they were not U.S. citizens, and that they would again if they were called upon to do so.

'It seems that we as Indian people are still suffering our losses from Vietnam,' Wahwasuck said. 'Many of our younger people do not have fathers with us because of war. Many of our elders are still sad because they have lost sons in combat for this country.

'We as Native people to this country know too well the sorrows of war, because of war we have reservations to live on in a country that was once ours to live in where we wanted.'

Don 'Bucky' Pilcher, former chairman of the Sac & Fox Nation in Kansas, went one step farther. He believes the catastrophic attacks are the result of the United States simply not minding its own business.

'What they should really try to do is live up to their own treaties instead of trying to get everyone to live up to treaties. They have treaties over here they are breaking over here every day in their Supreme Court.

'How long have we been aiding and abetting the Jewish people? And it's never come to an end yet. Every time there is trouble someplace we send our people over and sacrifice them, you know.

'It's hard when things happen that way, but that is what happens when you meddle into other people's business. It's really a shame, but we've done things for so darn long?you can't always buy people off. Because you stick up for one side and you hurt the other side's feelings. You should say, 'settle your own differences.'

'It is never going to be settled, I don't care who tries to get in there. Those people grew up that way all their lives, fighting for a cause, fighting for a cause. Generation after generation grows up fighting for a cause. They don't want no peace.

'We should mind our own business, we have plenty of things to do in our own country, take care of our own people. Talk about a third world country?if they would live up to half of the promises they made to people over here they would be doing a good job.'