How suddenly everything changes. Monday night I was writing about a “massacre” in Bidwell Park that saw the death of six goats. Today, in the wake of what has happened back east, the story seems incredibly insignificant. The spectrum has shifted. I get to work on Tuesday and find in the fax machine a press release announcing that Mayor Dan Herbert will hold a press conference on the steps of the City Council building. Why? is my first reaction. Then I figure, why not? What do you do when something of such magnitude and terror hits your country? The press conference was just a chance for the mayor to do what he felt obligated to do as the city’s leader. He led a prayer and quoted from the Bible. That may have comforted some, but not me. Instead, I got a strange sense of reassurance just from seeing and talking to people I normally encounter as part of my job. People ranging from City Manger Tom Lando to the Butte Environmental Council’s Barbara Vlamis.

Still, other things seem hopelessly small and meaningless. But admitting that is where we get defeated. Writing and publishing the goat story matters because to do so is to demonstrate that life goes on, that we eventually get past these events, no matter how horrible they may be. And make no doubt, this is the most horrific news event I, and I would imagine most Americans, ever have witnessed. What’s weird is that the impact of watching all this on TV—thanks to the mass presence of video cameras—has been somewhat diluted by Hollywood’s special-effects industry. I watch the horror, but my mind tells me it’s just a show, that I’ve seen worse carnage than this on the big screen.

Everyone deals with the shock in different ways. My e-mail is filled with messages related to the assault. Our fax machine is clogged with messages from the governor, Rep. Wally Herger, Sen. Maurice Johannessen, Butte County Supervisor Jane Dolan and others. Their sentiments range from calling it “an act of war” and demanding quick retaliation (Johannessen) to a note that “I will hug my nieces and nephews a little longer over the next several days. …” (Dolan). I attended a meeting Tuesday night of the Human Relations Network, a group made up of local peace activists, church representatives and others in the community. I witnessed their attempts to get the wording of their press release just right. “We are grieving along with the rest of the nation and the world over the devastating events of September 11, 2001,” the release said. “We are shocked, disillusioned and without a clear sense of direction. We are groping in the dark, too uncertain to even formulate our questions. While we all struggle with despair and uncertainty, we urge all to act with kindness, tolerance and a sense of community in the days and weeks ahead.” Indeed. The press release continues, asking that we not “rush to judge particular ethnic, religious, national or political groups. When culprits of the violence are identified, let us redouble our efforts to separate groups of people from the acts of individuals.”

Following their meeting on campus Tuesday night to express their concerns about angry reprisals, Chico State Arab students have organized an effort to make blood donations for the next few weeks for the victims of the attacks. Anyone who tries to make some tenuous tie between these people and the terrorists should consider this: A great number of Arabs live in New York, and undoubtedly many are among those who perished in the assault.