SUSAN ALLEN COULD HAVE BEEN A HEro. But when she filed a self-aggrandizing, opportunistic lawsuit against Richard Berendzen and American University, she blew it {"The Public Nightmare of Richard Berendzen," September 23}.

Allen says she encouraged Berendzen's calls in order to help catch him. After he was caught, she set up an 800 number to help other obscene call victims. Now it turns out she quickly lost interest in her hotline and is instead in hot pursuit of $15 million. She says American University officials caused her "emotional distress" because they confronted Berendzen about the calls and demanded he resign. What exactly did Allen want them to do?

Allen characterizes her conversations with Berendzen as "not a lot different than being raped." Wrong. You can hang up on a caller; you can't walk away from a rapist. Allen didn't have to encourage Berendzen, but she wanted to be a hero. That's fine -- but it's awfully unseemly for a hero to specify her own reward and pursue it so aggressively. PERRY TURNER Silver Spring

I'M AMAZED AT ALL THE SYMPATHY that Richard Berendzen is receiving. Doesn't anyone care about the pain and fear that Susan Allen is living with? Countless people have endured childhood and adulthood traumas but have not inflicted their pain on others.

I personally feel that Mr. Berendzen received a very light sentence because he has influence and knows influential people. Because she advertised to earn an honest living, Ms. Allen is the victim. Her life has been disrupted by someone who only can say, "I deeply regret all this." MARION DEANGELO Springfield


MY FAMILY AND I JOIN RICHARD COHEN in bemoaning the state of our cities {Critic at Large, September 30}. We, like so many others, have suffered the indignities of modern-day life in Washington. Our car has been stolen, our home ransacked and our sense of security wrenched away.

Nevertheless, we continue to live in this bedlam rather than head for the hills of Virginia. Crab sandwiches at Eastern Market, the sight of the Capitol and an evening at the Folger are our daily encounters, and we are not yet ready to give them up for the serenity of suburbia.

But how long can the attraction of the city's epicurean, architectural and cultural bright spots overpower our fears and, dare I say, common sense? In a year when the Kennedy Center nearly goes belly up and a glittering concert hall opens at George Mason University, the city seems to be losing its grip on the few remaining advantages of urban life.

For the time being, we will stay, pay our taxes and try to be a part of the solution. After all, city living has always been a struggle of one sort or another. But the day the Redskins move to Fairfax County, we're history. DAVID R. ZOOK Washington FAMILY TIES

I READ WITH DISBELIEF JAMES MORgan's article about "the quilt, made of men's ties from the '40s, that we use as a tablecloth; we figure men have always gotten food on their ties, so why not" {"These Foolish Things," September 30}.

I made a necktie quilt as a wedding gift for my husband. The center is made from ties contributed from each male member of both sides of the family. I would be the first to admit that it is a quilt only we could love, but it makes me gasp to think of a piece of toast, smeared with blueberry jam, landing upside down on it.

Some quilter labored affectionately to create your "tablecloth," Mr. Morgan. Have a heart! Go buy yourself a REAL tablecloth. SUE ANN BARTCHY-REINISCH Clarksburg

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