- The Washington Times - Friday, November 2, 2001

Amid the long lines and angry queries about adults' anthrax anxiety arose a lone voice to ask about the children.
What about the children? What do you say to scared students? What should you do about students' field trips to the nation's capital?
These were the atypical questions that one clearly conflicted Prince George's school teacher asked of D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton during a town hall meeting at the Washington Convention Center on Monday night.
Without hesitation, the District's head cheerleader advised the teacher to keep the kiddies coming. I couldn't agree more.
Mrs. Norton contends that the District is safer now than any city in the country with the added safety measures that have been implemented since September 11, and it will be the first jurisdiction where the U.S. mail will be sanitized.
"People are safer in D.C. than in their own hometowns," Mrs. Norton said yesterday. "Besides, right now it's the best bargain not only for the kids. Bring the whole family."
Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore III, who heads an anti-terrorism task force, also urged his constituents not to cancel field trips to the nation's capital.
"What are the odds that your child is going to be subjected to a terrorist attack? Virtually none. Americans are going to have to realize that they're living in a different situation and have to go on with their lives," Mr. Gilmore said on a local radio show earlier this week.
Still, it's easy to understand the concerns of the Prince George's teacher and others like her. But it's not easy to argue with parents who refuse to sign permission slips allowing their children to hop on a yellow school bus headed for downtown.
Is it any wonder why the general public is confused given that it is fed a daily diet of doublespeak that advises us to get on with our lives on the one hand, while we watch frantic politicians and bureaucrats close up shop all around the District with the other hand?
Which is it? With government office buildings, post offices and major thoroughfares being blocked or locked, how can we be expected to move along willy-nilly?
And, if adults adopt an anxious, bunker mentality because they can't make sense of the mixed messages, then how on earth can they, in turn, calm the fears of their children?
Now we have school districts some within a stone's throw of the Jefferson and Lincoln memorials and the Washington Monument canceling field trips to the city because they are afraid that their students just might find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Or, they're more afraid of the financial liability they might incur should something unpredictable occur.
One reputable educational group, the nonprofit Close Up Foundation, has had to lay off workers because of the dwindling number of students taking advantage of its program since September 11.
No matter where we live, work or play, we cannot live as though we live in a bubble. Neither can our children. It is simply not healthy. Our strong nation cannot continue to prosper if we teach our children to be afraid of their own shadows.
And how many times have we been told that stress kills? Walk around on eggshells and everybody gets crushed.
Don't get me wrong. These are serious times and serious situations. I'm not advocating a totally lackadaisical attitude that discounts the different atmosphere we find ourselves in since September 11.
However, we cannot allow ourselves to be held hostages to the what-ifs. There are just too just many to cover.
Life, as full as possible, must go on.
Here's a great example: In conjunction with D.C. and Virginia tourism agencies, WorldStrides, a national student-travel company, has invited 400 educators and administrators who represent more than 30,000 students to the nation's capital on Nov. 10 for the first "Now, More Than Ever Weekend." The purpose of the trip, which is being underwritten by airlines, hotels and tourist companies, is to demonstrate that student travel is "safe, fun and an essential component in the development of America's future leaders."
Vicki Isley, director of marketing and communications for the Washington Convention and Tourism Corp., said, "Student travel isn't just a D.C. issue." Schools across the nation are taking a second look at field trips from a liability standpoint.
Her organization is trying to provide travel planners with accurate and timely information about which Washington attractions are open and accessible to them. All the monuments are open with the exception of the Washington Monument, which is closed for renovation.
"The president asked us to go about daily lives and part of that is students exploring the history of the country," she said. "There is a great deal for students to discover in Washington, D.C.," including tours that teach them about everything from the Civil War to civil rights.
What about the children? Let them learn by our example to triumph over terror.
For tourism information in the nation's capital, go to www.washington.org on the Web.


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