Life was going great for a Valdosta State University student studying abroad until a terrorist entered the picture.
Last week, Kimberly Christine Moomaw, a 24-year-old senior political science major studying in the Olomouc Region of the Czech Republic, literally stumbled upon the dangerous situation.
The Prague Post described an anonymous 'blackmailer' threatening to carry out a series of explosions. "I am sort of stuck here in Olomouc. I can't leave by train, so I'll sit here and hope everything works itself out. I went to a football match today before I found out about this terrorist threat we seem to be under. There were cops in riot gear everywhere and protesters yelling ... 'Die Americans die,' and 'No war.' They were waiving Iraqi flags."
The scary part, Moomaw added, is that no one bothered to warn the international students studying in the region. The Czech students, she said, are either staying at home or evacuating the area.
According to the Prague Post, Olomouc Region authorities are taking measures to prevent the perpetrator from exploding bombs or to minimalize the consequences of exposions should they occur. Police are patrolling the streets and hospitals are preparing for the possibility of mass injuries. A bomb was located at an Olomouc railway bridge a few days ago and another one was discovered in Prostjev.
Prior to these threats, Moomaw said she felt safer living in Olomouc during America's war on terrorism and war in Iraq than should would in Valdosta.
"A terrorist organiztion is not likely to focus on a small Central European country," she said a few days earlier.
Moomaw has thrown that particular notion out the window and embraced a new one: There will never be a place on Earth where someone can be 100 percent safe from violence. The trick is to find a way to overcome the fear and continue on life's journey.
"I refuse to live in terror," she said.
Since her arrival in the region on Sept. 10, 2002, Moomaw has witnessed a growing anti-American sentiment.
"Generally, it seems most Europeans feel terrible about Sept. 11," she said. "They understand the necessity of ridding the war of terrorism but question America's motives and methods. President George W. Bush is portrayed as some sort of buffoon, hell-bent on destroying the world. The people here are reluctant to accept the terrorism reasoning for war. Most of them feel this war is more related to oil than to justice."
Moomaw said the people are also afraid of being pulled into the war, having just recently achieved their own peaceful existence.
"It's a strange existence for me right now," she said.
Moomaw described how many Europeans are infatuated with American pop culture -- eating at McDonald's, listening to American bands, watching Hollywood films, and wearing clothing featuring the American flag, sports teams, and phrases. It's actual Americans they have a problem with.
"Unfortunately, in crises such as this, it becomes harder for people to separate individuals from nationalities," she said. "Recently, I was at a pub with friends. A man sitting close to us pinpointed my accent as American and insulted me, harrassed me, and called me names like 'ignorant baby killer.' He even threw a few coasters at me."
A once outspoken and charismatic woman eager to exercise her freedom of speech, Moomaw said the experience has changed her in some ways.
"The past month has been a constant reminder that I have limits in my surroundings," she said. "I've learned to listen more and voice my own political opinions more carefully and quietly. I find myself on a daily basis having to explain myself and, on occaision, defend myself against American stereotypes. You learn to laugh it off or turn it into a joke because there aren't many appealing options on how to deal with this."
In the meantime, the anti-war and anti-American protests continue, and Moomaw pushes forward with her educational pursuits.
She plans to return to the United States sometime in June.
To contact reporter Jessica Pope, please call 244-3400, ext. 255.
React to this story:
- Brooks child struggles after snake bite
- Lowndes County Food Scores
- 'Extra' Talented: Valdosta, Tennessee residents act in 'Bandit'
- UPDATE: Child bitten by rattlesnake improves
- RICHARDS: Business About Town
- Christ the King moves out of downtown
- Lowndes sheriff: Four teens charged with murder
- Lowndes County Food Scores
- Supreme unveils first boat: Plans three per day by November
- Valdosta police mourn loss of one of their own