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Posted: 11/14/2001 7:32:37 PM EDT
NEW YORK — A visit to the smoldering remains of the World Trade Center left young activists from the Maine-based Seeds of Peace program in shock, nursing feelings of anger and sadness. The teen-agers paid their respects at ground zero while attending a Seeds of Peace International Youth Conference called "Uprooting Hatred and Terror" that was organized in response to the Sept. 11 attacks. Shani Manor, a 17-year-old from Israel, was teary-eyed as she emerged from the rubble of the twin towers where her cousin died. She was shocked at the size of the hole where buildings once stood. Manor described herself as a peace activist, but said she would have stabbed Usama bin Laden had he had been standing beside her. "It was the first time in my life I felt hatred," she told the Portland Press Herald. "It was horrible." An Egyptian friend wrapped her arms around Manor to comfort her. "She was my friend and I love her, but she's Arab and I'm not feeling really good about Arabs right now," Manor said. The Seeds of Peace visit, blessed by Mayor Rudy Guiliani, marked the first time a youth group has been allowed to visit the site. It also was the first time such a diverse group had come to pay their respects. Muslims and Jews, Indians and Pakistanis stood together on the wooden platform overlooking cranes, trucks and other equipment searching through the rubble. The teen-agers were alumni of the Seeds of Peace camp in Otisfield, Maine, where children from areas in conflict come together to debate world problems and make friends with those regarded as the enemy. Parents worried about sending their kids to New York, but 120 of them from 20 countries came anyway, intent on drafting their own anti-terrorism charter to present to the United Nations on Thursday. This week, as they have heard from dignitaries such as Queen Noor of Jordan and met with the wife of a World Trade Center victim, they have hugged and talked and laughed -- and asked tough questions of politicians. Nabil Sha'ath, a Palestinian official, pledged Yasser Arafat's future support for the camp. Violence in the Middle East kept Palestinian teen-agers away from Maine for a period this year. On their arrival at ground zero, the young people went onto the platform about 50 at a time. Amal Khan, a 15-year-old girl from Pakistan, wasn't sure she wanted to go in. "I'm saying to myself now, why did it have to happen?" she said, her eyes filling with tears. "Why would anyone be so angry? I'm so confused. I don't know if I want to see it." As they looked over the rubble, Dina Hanna, a liaison with Guiliani's office, recited a litany of bodies found, buildings still around. The Seeds of Peace kids have a firsthand relationship with terror, but it was hard for even them to understand the devastation. Naima Margan, 14, a Somalian refugee who lives in Portland, was sad and trembling when she left the platform. "It brings back memories," she said. "It just brings back innocent people dying. It's a disaster. It should never have happened. It's hard because you think of these people that were jumping out the windows ..." Walking back to the United Nations, Manor said the experience reinforced her belief that the work Seeds of Peace is doing is as important as the work of diplomats. She also needed to call home. [b]This was on www.foxnews.com[/b] Aviator [img]www.milpubs.com/aviator.gif[/img]
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