Kathy Priest-Henson understands the potential devastation war can bring to a family. She’s had too many close calls with her own family.
Two of the Scottsdale resident’s four sons are on active military duty. Eric Fiorito, 25, is in the Navy patrolling the Korean coast from his station in Japan. He just missed the USS Cole bombing in 2000 and the nightclub bombing in Bali in 2002.
The other, Jeff Fiorito, 35, is part of an Army special-operations unit in Washington, D.C. He was wounded in Afghanistan five years ago, retired on disability then he went back into the Reserves. He is awaiting orders to deploy to Iraq.
"I didn’t get all this gray hair for nothing,'' Priest-Henson said with a half-hearted laugh. "Every time we get the call it's like I lose years off my life.''
A national poll earlier this month shows about 49 percent of respondents believe the Bush administration made a mistake going to war with Iraq. In December, two-thirds said the administration made the right decision.
Personal stories and opinions varied among people locals the Tribune interviewed Wednesday outside Scottsdale Civic Center Library downtown.
"From a mother's standpoint, I'm proud of both of my |sons. I know that's what they were trained for, that's their life . . . I grieve for all of the military that have passed on.''
As if her sons' work is not enough to keep her on edge, Priest-Henson has faced panic herself.
Her flight from Phoenix to Chicago on Sept. 11, 2001, was reversed two hours into its journey. Alarm didn't set in, however, until the plane landed and passengers learned of the devastation hijackers caused in the Northeast.
She doesn't feel times are any better today than then they were then.
"Any American city or town is a target, especially larger cities,'' said Priest-Henson, 56, an independent. "Americans are very unobservant. We've become too complacent, too protected, that it would never come to us and we don't worry about things as Israelis would.''
She has been laid off twice after the Sept. 11 attacks and is out of work.
Brooks Dockter, 22, an Arizona State University ASU student, is against the war and President George W. Bush.
“We went in there under false beliefs under President Bush and what we're doing there is like a Vietnam,” said Dockter, a registered Democrat who lives in Mesa.
Dockter, who plans to support Democratic Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., for president said the United States should have left Saddam Hussein alone, but now that our troops are there, we should get out as fast as possible and give Iraqis control of their government.
"(Saddam) was an evil person, obviously, but you know there's a lot of evil dictators out there that we leave alone, because we get what we want from them,'' said Dockter, a North Dakota native.
Korean War veteran Don Parker has a different view. He supports Bush's call for the war.
"No one wants to see the boys die. I've been there. I've seen what's gone on,'' said Parker, 72, an independent. Although the United States can't control what all people do, it has a responsibility to take action. It would be like somebody striking at your family and looking the other way. You have to take a stand.''
The recent escalation of violence in Iraq will likely bolster Bush’s approval ratings, said ASU professor Bruce Merrill.
"Violence helps in the sense that you're in a crisis and you don't generally change leaders," he said. "Of course, no president would want to continue the loss of American lives, but if things were to get really good it would turn the public's attention back to the economy."
All those interviewed by the Tribune in Scottsdale agreed the United States needs to turn Iraq over to its people in June, preferably with the support of the United Nations.
While Iraq is not the safest place, neither is Arizona, said Parker, who hails from Washington state. He said watching the evening TV news filled with shootings and traffic accidents proves his point.
"I would take my chances in going to Iraq rather than riding the 101,'' he said.
The semi-retired real estate agent who owns a home in Scottsdale said he believes the United States will find proof of a connection between Saddam and al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.
"We felt pretty secure for a long time, didn't we?'' Parker asked. “You can't stop all this stuff, but I think you do the best you can. . . . Take a punch at us, then look out, we’re one people.”
- Staff Writer Marija Potkonjak contributed to this story.