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On the edge of the American Great Lakes, a community reeling from the attack on Rushdie

Like many residents of the Chautauqua Institution, a kind of university for seniors in a gigantic park on the edge of the superb Chautauqua Lake, in the north of the State of New York, Emily Sack remains groggy, a week after the facts.

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On the edge of the American Great Lakes, a community reeling from the attack on Rushdie

Like many residents of the Chautauqua Institution, a kind of university for seniors in a gigantic park on the edge of the superb Chautauqua Lake, in the north of the State of New York, Emily Sack remains groggy, a week after the facts.

"It went so fast. It was almost over before it started," breathes AFP this octogenarian who was quietly sitting in the partially open-air amphitheater on August 12 in the morning.

She was waiting there for the literary conference of the author of "Satanic Verses" when he was attacked by Hadi Matar, a 24-year-old American of Lebanese origin living in New Jersey, an attempted murder that outraged in the West.

- "Completely depressed" -

After the attack, the Chautauqua Institution "cancelled everything for the rest of the day" and "everyone here, including me, came out of it completely depressed," says Ms. Sack, tears in her eyes.

The Chautauqua Institution aims to be a beacon of "diversity" and cultural, community and religious life in the northern United States, a stone's throw from the great Lake Erie on the border with Canada.

Founded in 1874 by two Methodist Protestants, it has become a renowned place for activities and exchanges in the arts, human sciences, education, religion...

President Franklin Roosevelt gave a famous speech there in August 1936 on his "hatred" of the war.

This non-profit organization claims during its summer festival 100,000 visitors and residents - the majority of whom are elderly people - who wander on foot and by bicycle in what looks like a community village protected by a perimeter fence, to beautifully maintained streets, colonial houses and gardens, with its library, shops, own police and postal service.

- "Outside world" -

"It's obviously a shock to our whole community, to the whole region, and to anyone who knows the Chautauqua Institution. We've been here for almost 150 years and we've never had to go through anything like this," he said. AFP, throat tied and repressing sobs, Emily Morris, the vice-president of the center.

"It's unfortunate that we have been affected by the outside world," even said a resident, on condition of anonymity.

Because in the small county of Chautauqua and its tiny county town of Mayville, where Hadi Matar appeared in court on Thursday after being charged with "attempted murder" and "assault", no one imagined that this pretty, quiet corner of the region of the Great Lakes suffered an attack with international repercussions.

Local prosecutor Jason Schmidt, who is investigating the case of the attack on Mr. Rushdie - targeted since 1989 by a death sentence contained in a fatwa by the Iranian Guide - admitted to the press that his "small" jurisdiction " did not have the shoulders to handle such a case, which the federal police are also investigating.

Emily Sack also replies that she had "never thought before that this could happen" in Chautauqua.

Barbara Warner, of the same age, a regular at the Chautauqua Institution, laments that "these things, which happen all over the country (...), also unfortunately happen" in the cultural center.

David Wilson is also "in shock", but a week later he still feels "safe" to enjoy the last activities of the summer at the Chautauqua Institution.

The center has come under fire from the US press for the apparent lack of safety measures for a host such as Salman Rushdie, who is slowly recovering in a hospital in lakeside Erie.

Vice President Emily Morris said she has implemented metal object detection and a bag ban in the amphitheater.

A few guards actually patrol around the amphitheater, entry to which is strictly controlled.

While the protection around Salman Rushdie had largely eased in the twenty years that he lived in the United States, "we obviously would not have (organized) such an event if we did not think we had measures ( security) adequate", defends Ms. Morris.

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