THE VALLEY In the wake of attacks, new attitudes emerge

One area worker said customers have been more courteous since the attacks.
Across the Valley, strangers who once kept a distance are talking with one another. Co-workers remind colleagues to keep stress in perspective. Congregants flock to their houses of worship. According to a sampling of area residents, the attacks on New York and Washington has made them more mindful of others as they return to daily routines.
On Sept. 12, Andrea Muntean needed to buy her son Michael a birthday gift despite the fact she felt a bit dazed from the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
Patriotism: As the Poland mother stood in line at Toys "R" Us, she noticed a woman in back of her wearing a red, white and blue pin with a black rose. Muntean told the stranger she admired her pin. "I asked her where I could buy one," she recalled.
"The woman told me that her daughter was selling them to benefit the disaster fund. She had an extra in her car." Muntean said she followed the woman to the parking lot, and the stranger gave her a pin.
"I wear it all the time," she said adding she purchased another to benefit the fund.
"It seems to me that this has touched all of us, regardless what religion we are, what color, where we live, what we do. It's just impacted us so traumatically. I drive around and all I see is red, white and blue flags. This country is as one. I feel as if we are all in it together," she said. "This is different than Vietnam," she said, adding that in her lifetime she has never seen such displays of patriotism.
Muntean believes that "what ever happens with this war will affect all of us in the same way. When you look in someone's eyes, and your eyes meet, they feel what you feel," she added. "People look at my pin and shake their head."
New outlook: Evelyn Olenick, interim vice president of nursing at Forum Health, said the tragedy of Sept. 11 has changed her outlook. The Boardman resident said her colleagues help her keep stress in perspective.
"In the hospital we deal with life and death all the time. We need to have some level of cooperation and courtesy that should come through to the patients and families," she said.
On a personal level, Olenick said she continues to ask herself: "Is this life or death? There are families whose life was totally disrupted by the event."
"I'm basically an impatient person, but I take a breath and try to show someone else courtesy and kindness. We are changed forever. The change needs to start with each of us. We should think of someone else for a minute instead of only our own needs."
Heather Rock, a security guard at the Butler Institute of American Art, agreed that people have changed their attitudes, especially for security checks.
"They are willing to cooperate to check bags and turn over book bags," she said. "They realize the need for security. If someone asked to check my belongings it wouldn't bother me."
More courteous: Carol Giannini of Liberty has found that both young and old are more courteous since the Sept. 11 attacks. "It still gives me goose bumps" to think about the incident she said as she rubbed her arms.
She said that people talk to her more during her job as cashier at Big John's Car Wash in Liberty.
"I'll say have a good day, and they'll respond with 'I hope today's going to be a better day,'" she said. Giannini said she thinks that more people are praying and going to church.
Big John's owner Mark Buckley noticed that customers are talking to each other more frequently. "I normally see people waiting in the lobby quietly."
Recently, strangers initiate discussions. "The topic of the terrorist attacks is a common starting point," he observed. "But often they start exchanging comments about local news."
Of course, crisis doesn't necessarily bring out the best in everyone. Two customer service representatives at Key Bank on Belmont Avenue agreed that they didn't see much improvement in courtesy or patience as customers went about their banking business.
Mike Billock said although he knows customers are sympathetic to the tragedy, he found some short-tempered and irritable after the attack.
"I wish I had something better to say," added Polly Yarnell, "but I haven't seen folks acting any differently."