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U.S. News
Leanne Schmidt: Allderdice High School essayist

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

By Jane Elizabeth, Post-Gazette Education Writer

Leanne Schmidt was on her way to her third-period class at Allderdice High School last Sept. 11 when "a kid that I knew came running by and he told me about the planes. I didn't really understand what he was saying."

Leanne Schmidt, a 16-year-old junior at Allderdice High School, was worried last year that fellow students of Middle Eastern descent would be discriminated against. In the past year, she has seen some of that happen, but also has been buoyed by the positive patriotism she has witnessed.

But she began to get nervous when her chemistry teacher shrugged off questions and "tried to teach."

In her next class, a pre-engineering course, a television was on and there was no ignoring the chaos. "We talked about it the whole class. People couldn't believe it; everyone was in shock. Tons of kids left school."

Since then, entire class periods sometimes have been devoted to discussion of Sept. 11 and terrorism. Leanne, now a 16-year-old junior at the school, was concerned that some foreign-born classmates at Allderdice -- one of the most ethnically and racially diverse high schools in the region -- would be met with rejection from other students and the community.

For a special section published by the Post-Gazette five days after the attacks, Leanne wrote this:

"As scared as I was when I saw what happened on Tuesday, September 11, nothing has scared me more than the reaction of some American citizens towards Middle Eastern people who reside in our country as citizens or as visitors.
"I'm scared that we can so soon forget the very freedom that America stands for and the responsibility that comes with that freedom. Because it seems to me that when we forget what America stands for and in turn bring ourselves down to the level of the terrorist, that is exactly the price that the terrorist wants us to pay for our freedom..
"I would be very upset to see any of my friends of Middle-Eastern descent being harmed or abused by Americans who don't even know the true meaning of what it is to be an 'American.'"

Leanne, who worked at the Gateway Clipper gift shop this summer, took some time to write down her thoughts about Sept. 11, one year later.

Here's what she told us:

"A year ago American lives were changed forever. Obviously, some lives were more directly and horrifically changed than mine and I feel sad when I think of the families of the victims of the terrorists.
"For myself, September 11 has made me feel very unsafe and scared. I used to feel like our lives and our freedoms were safe. But when I read news reports about bin Laden and Al-Quaida, I realize that we might not ever be truly safe. We aren't safe from terrorist groups that seem to be able to hide better the more we try to find them and we aren't safe from hateful people who will discriminate against Americans of Middle-Eastern descent.
"After Sept. 11, I began to notice uneasy glances towards some students at my school based on their Middle-Eastern appearance or dress. I even began to hear hurtful words and statements used against them when I had never heard such expressions before.
"On the other hand, I have seen a huge display of patriotism and of people banding together so that even though I feel a lot of worry and fear about our country now, I have hope that those feelings will lessen in the future because I do live in America and we are free and we can make our country the best that it can be."

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