By Tim Leeds
Havre-area residents continued today to offer assistance in the aftermath of Tuesday's terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and New York's World Trade Center. Meanwhile, travel restrictions have kept several local residents from coming home.
Three Havre residents are included in the dozen representatives from the Farmers Union Delegation of Montana who have been stranded in Washington.
Havre's Daryl Sather, 55, along with 25-year-old Ryan Joy and Jenny Miller, a senior at Havre High, were scheduled to lobby congressman and senators from 14 states when the Pentagon was attacked.
Most of their appointments to discuss farm and cattle issues have been canceled. Sather and several other representatives were in Montana Sen. Conrad Burns' office when the Pentagon was struck by a plane. Since Tuesday, the group has been in a holding pattern in the Capital Holiday Inn in downtown Washington.
"For us, it's been a lockdown," said Sather, who has had his airplane departure times changed several times but should return home with his fellow Havreites Saturday night. "We want to get out of here. We're glued to the TV. It's a constant barrage."
Though the death toll from the attacks weighed heavily on their minds, the Farmers Union delegation met with Burns today for an hour in the restaurant of their hotel.
"He called and said he would like to come and visit with us," Sather said. "It was a nice personal visit. He gave us the opportunity to put some farm issues on the table. We just said we will come back some other time when this isn't going on."
Deb Joy, Ryan Joy's mother, said she was worried until she talked to her son Tuesday. Joy said she called the Montana Farmers Union office in Great Falls, and was told everyone in his group was all right, but that was not enough to ease her mind.
"Until you actually hear that voice from your child, you're not content," she said.
Joy said won't feel completely at ease until Ryan is home.
"Until he's on the ground I'll still be concerned," she said.
Havreites are taking action to help out in the time of crisis. That includes churches holding special services and schools and Montana State University-Northern offering counseling to students who are concerned about the attacks.
Lanny Wilke, who advises the MSU-Northern Students in Free Enterprise organization, said members have decided to help Havre residents assist those who need help after the attacks.
Members will give red, white and blue ribbons to people who want to donate to help the victims. All of the donations will go to the American Red Cross, specified for use in connection with Tuesday's tragedy.
The ribbons will be offered by students walking next to the organization's float in Saturday's Festival Days Parade, and students will be in other areas with the ribbons. People should look for something saying MSU-Northern Students in Free Enterprise or MSU-Northern SIFE, Wilke said.
"If they see some SIFE students and see a red, white and blue ribbon, they'll know what it's for," he said.
Havre's gas prices have not been affected, although other areas of Montana and the United States have seen prices jump in the aftermath of the attacks. Havre's prices for regular unleaded gasoline have stayed between $1.619 and $1.629 since before the attacks.
Howard Stromberg, president of Stromberg's Sinclair in Havre, said the prices have stayed level at the Sinclair station for more than a week. He said there is no way of knowing what will happen with prices in the future. It all depends on supply and demand, he added.
Wholesale gas prices have been volatile the last few days, Stromberg said. Twice he has seen jumps followed by drops of the same size, resulting in no change in prices at the pump.
Customers waited in long lines and watched brief price increases in some areas of Montana. In Billings, the price jumped briefly to near $2 a gallon at at least one station, while large numbers of worried drivers filled their tanks. At least one station reported running out of fuel.
Gov. Judy Martz responded to concerned calls about high gas prices by urging Montanans to remain calm, and U.S. Sen. Max Baucus responded by asking Montana Attorney General Mike McGrath and U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft to investigate possible price gouging.
Prices jumped as high as $5 a gallon at some stations in the country Wednesday. The prices at most had dropped back to near Tuesday's level by today.
Some owners and managers of gas stations in the country have admitted to overreacting, and are donating the profits of the price jumps to charity or are offering refunds.
Jennifer Hoffman, manager of Holland & Bonine Funeral Home in Havre, said she has volunteered her services to help in New York and Washington, but doesn't know yet if she will be called on.
The National Disaster Medical System under the U.S. Public Health Service has already activated seven Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Teams, or DMORT, and is expected to activate the remaining three teams to help in dealing with the casualties in Washington and New York. Some Montanans are members of the activated teams.
The DMORT teams each have 60 to 20 members, including medical examiners, coroners, embalmers, fingerprint specialists, DNA analysts, dental experts, forensic pathologists and anthropologists, computer experts, X-ray technicians, evidence specialists, criminal investigators and funeral directors.
The teams will oversee the collection of remains from the debris, meet with the families of victims to gather information to help identify the remains, and try to identify the bodies.
Hoffman said she received an e-mail telling her that applications to be on a DMORT would take six months to process, but she is volunteering her services right now. She added that 12 Montanans have volunteered.
"We're just waiting to see if they will allow us to go without being screened for DMORT," she said.
The magnitude of the tragedy makes it likely the DMORTs will need additional help, Hoffman said.
"I can't imagine they would refuse any applications right now because they need the assistance," she said.