In Md., security tightens and children are kept off federal building playground COPING WITH TRAGEDY

April 21, 1995|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Sun Staff Writer Sun staff writers James M. Coram, Alan Craver, Shirley Leung, Suzanne Loudermilk, Sheridan Lyons, Tia Matthews, Marcia Myers, Dennis O'Brien, Ivan Penn, John Rivera, Alisa Samuels and Elaine Tassy contributed to this article.

The bombing in Oklahoma City was half a country away, but it rattled Marylanders who had to cope with the fallout.

Across the region yesterday, daily routines were upset by Wednesday's tragedy.

* Someone left a note on the Anne Arundel County courthouse steps showing a drawing of a bomb and a handwritten map with X's over several buildings, including the Governor's Mansion, prompting a police search of several state and county offices. No bombs were found.

* Children at a child care center in downtown Baltimore were not allowed on the playground at the Fallon Federal Building. Providers instead took them on walks.

* A Baltimore County elementary school canceled a coveted trip to the White House, and a chance for students to perform in front of a national audience.

* Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke ordered flags at all city buildings to be flown at half-staff.

* Firefighters in Montgomery County were summoned to Oklahoma to help search for victims.

"Sure, everybody is concerned," said Linda R. Prince, a court reporter who works in Baltimore's federal courthouse. "We are completely vulnerable."

Officials increased security at several places. from the National Security Agency at Fort Meade -- where specialists monitor world-wide communications -- to the World Trade Center in Baltimore.

The schematic drawing of the bomb and the handwritten map with buildings marked were found near the courthouse entrance on Church Circle about 8 a.m. Capt. John Wright of the Annapolis Police Department said the drawing was sophisticated enough that explosives experts from the State Fire xTC Marshal's Office determined it could serve as a model for a workable explosive.

Police sent bomb-sniffing dogs through the Governor's Mansion, Annapolis City Hall, the Anne Arundel Circuit Courthouse, the Arundel Center and two buildings on West Street that house offices for the state Social Services Department and the State Employees Credit Union.

"I don't think anybody here thinks they're in any danger," said Sharon Aulton, who supervises the clerks at the courthouse. "A few people may worry some, but I don't think there's any reason to."

Baltimore also had its share of bomb scares, though, as in Annapolis, all were unfounded, police said. No one was evacuated.

Two were at the Central District Police Station in the 500 block of E. Baltimore St. Suspicious packages also attracted unusual interest at Reisterstown Road Plaza and the First Maryland Building on South Charles Street.

No bomb threats were called in at Baltimore County Circuit Court, but Administrative Judge Edward A. DeWaters had a police dog scour the building anyway "just to be safe. . . . Then if someone called in with bomb threats, we would be prepared."

U.S. Marshal Scott A. Sewell said a public walkway underneath the U.S. District Courthouse has been closed, and parking near the courthouse was restricted.

U.S. Attorney Lynne A. Battaglia met yesterday with representatives of federal investigative agencies to discuss security at federal buildings in Maryland. She would not disclose details, but said, "The reports I got were sufficient for me to say security is definitely being heightened."

At the YMCA/Fallon Federal Child Care Center on Lombard Street, across the street from the federal courthouse and Fallon federal building, about 50 children were kept from the playground.

"The staff are a little nervous about it," said Jane Christie, executive director of the YWCA of Greater Baltimore, which manages the center. "Parents are, too, and so is the General Services Administration. Instead, we're taking walks."

The GSA has put a security guard at the center for increased surveillance and sent a letter to all parents notifying them of a second location and phone number should evacuation become necessary.

At Arbutus Elementary School in Baltimore County, students performed Earth Day songs and dances on their school stage instead of before a national audience in Washington -- their trip to the nation's capital canceled because of the bomb blast. Twenty-one buses had been scheduled to take 686 students, teachers and parents to participate during the unveiling of four commemorative Earth Day stamps.

"Our biggest concern was the safety and welfare of oustudents," said Principal Dara Williams. "Yes, they were disappointed. But they were more disappointed about the disaster and the lives taken."

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