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Emotions less intense as time moves forward

LAWRENCEVILLE - On the five-year anniversary of Sept. 11, Lawrence McFly can't understand why people don't just let sleeping dogs lie.

"We need to look forward, walk straight," he said. "There have been wars and catastrophes since the beginning of time."

McFly said he has been desensitized to the attacks and their rhetoric since the day they happened, and local psychologists said as time passes, the initial horror of the day fades further into people's collective memory.

But a number of county residents said the constant reminders they face of terrorism - in airport security, in media reports - keep the memory of the attacks alive in their minds.

Cristina Lumpris, a Duluth resident, said her feelings about Sept. 11 aren't as deep now as they were in the months following the attacks. But any time she steps through a metal detector, Lumpris said the attacks aren't far from her mind.

"I think we have a constant reminder any time we walk into a public building," she said. "What a different world. Unfortunately, this is how we live now."

Nikiya Spence, a Lawrenceville psychotherapist, said people remain in a constant state of awareness, but have learned not to live their lives in fear. She said terror alerts that don't lead anywhere, a slew of movies about the attacks and repeated media coverage about the day that will live in infamy have likely desensitized people to feeling much emotion about the anniversary.

"I get the impression people are pretty much sick of it," she said. "I get the impression people think it's time to let it go. In a sense, we're repeating the negative side of it. We're reliving the experience. We're not forgetting, but we're reliving a negative experience."

Spence said she doesn't think people are on guard as much as they were immediately following the attacks, but Lilburn psychologist Michael Brissett said he thinks stress related to terrorism remains in the background, much like the everyday stress related to being stuck in Atlanta traffic.

As long as there is a realistic threat of terror in the country, he said, people will remain sensitive to the tragedy.

"We have a new awareness of our vulnerability," he said. "People are still pretty doggone concerned. We still have not reached a point of resolution."

Ash Khan, who said he worked in the World Trade Center from 1993 until 1997, knows of two former co-workers who did not make it out of the building alive. He said he thinks about the anniversary much like someone would the death of their parents - at first, it's constantly there, but as time passes, the intensity eases. But every anniversary, the memories resurface.

Khan said the date may not be personal to many Georgians who are distanced from the tragedy, but that it is important to remember such an important date in history.

Beth Lenz, who lives in Lawrenceville, said she has become a bit jaded, but not complacent about danger five years after Sept. 11. There's a fine line between staying informed and panicking, she said, and living with a background fear has become a way of life for her.

Lenz said she doesn't mind being inconvenienced by things like metal detectors or closed roads if it means that she is a little bit safer. Quentin Henderson, a Suwanee resident, said he thinks people need another attack before they are again removed from their comfort zone.

Jeff Given, a Lawrenceville resident who fought in Afghanistan in 2003 and 2004, said he thinks people have become apathetic.

"It's like something that happened a long time ago already," he said. "Americans in general want to forget it. It's a way of going on."

Given said Americans are myopic and pay more attention to personal struggles like feeding their families or paying their mortgages than to global concerns.

But the memory of Sept. 11 has not faded for everyone. Lucy Broadnax said whenever she sees an American flag, she can't help but remember the groundswell of patriotism that swept the country in the months following the attacks. A license plate with an eagle on it or an image of the twin towers helps her recall the firefighters, police officers and civilians who died that day.

"There are reminders everywhere," she said. "I think they'll always be there. I never thought anything like that would happen in my lifetime."