For several students, the United Nations' attack on Iraq marked the end of their "untouchable" years. They said they were realizing for the first time that their generation is fighting a war -- one that will directly affect their lives. And although many students said they were expecting such a strike, they added that the move still shocked them. Across campus, friends and strangers congregated around any available television set or radio, waiting anxiously for new information about the massive air raid. Students gathered together in a somber silence, which was broken only by occasional jokes about Peter Jenning's anchoring gaffes and George Bush's description of Kuwait as a "small and helpless nation." And for many students, thoughts of the crisis automatically include concern for the safety of family and friends in the Persian Gulf. For many others, they include the spectre of the draft, as many men said last night that they would not evade a draft. · During the first announcements of the bombings, the University's Model United Nations was meeting in a Vance Hall lecture room to organize for an upcoming conference and to hold elections. But members left the meeting to discuss both Gulf events and organizational issues. At the other end of the hall, a television set was tuned to news coverage of the crisis. Across the street at the Theta Xi fraternity house, chapter president Chris Ohl placed an American flag over the red door of the house to show his support for American forces -- some of whom are Theta Xi alumni from his chapter. Ohl said he believes that everyone at the University should put up a flag, observe a moment of silence, or make some other show of support for American troops. "Even though we are not fighting ourselves, we shouldn't think 'it's not my job ]to support troops in the Gulf],' " he said. At Smokey Joe's Tavern, patrons gathered around both the downstairs and upstairs bars to watch the first ABC News accounts, discarding pitchers and glasses of beer. Though the bartender tried occasionally to lighten the atmosphere in the normally jovial restaurant and bar, students and West Philadelphia residents alike kept a silent vigil in front of the television. West Philadelphia resident Jeff McFarlan said he was convinced the allied forces would win a war. While at Smoke's, he kept a legal pad in front of him on the bar where he scribbled notes about countries involved in the Gulf, oil, and various notes comparing allied forces' and Iraqi military strengths. "It's a very good cause," McFarlan said. "We should be over there -- it's what the U.S. stands for. We have the air and sea power . . . There's no way in the world they can beat us." Also in residence halls across campus, students gathered together in front of their televisions, calling their parents and friends, and discussing the night's actions. At High Rise North, students awaiting more information were ejected from the building by a security guard when a fire alarm sounded. The guard had to ask the students several times before any of them would stand up to leave. Some students said they were relieved that the allied forces had attacked. Others said they expected the attack to come sooner. "I'm terrified, but I'm glad that this waiting period is finally over," College junior Tova Rubin said less than an hour after the attack began. "I'm scared for Israel -- no one knows what's going on there." Several students said they supported President Bush -- even those who did not agree with him. "It's pretty shocking," College junior Michael Oh said. "It's the first real war I've been alive for." "I support what the President is doing," Oh added later. "Even if we don't support his policies, we owe our support to the American troops." "I absolutely support the President," College sophomore Steve Rice said last night. "It seems like we learned from Vietnam that we're going to massively attack them and get it over quickly." However, others said they wanted the troops to leave Iraq and that the Bush administration forced a war by not giving economic sanctions against Iraq time to work. "I was hoping for a peaceful solution, but in the back of my mind I knew this was coming," College freshman Brad Rosenberg said. "Peaceful solutions are harder to come by, and it seems as if George Bush has taken the easy way out." "The January 15 deadline never should have been passed," he added. "It put us in a corner and never gave the sanctions the time it needed to work." Just after the strike was announced, 15 people sat in the Quadrangle's Ashurst lounge waiting for more information to appear on television. Some students were biting their lips, others sat with their heads in their hands, speaking very little. Others, attempting to study in Bodine Lounge, said they were concerned that their generation was in the Gulf. "I'm scared that someone I know could go there, especially at such a young age," Wharton freshman Mee Kyung Yoo said.Comments powered by Disqus
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