City, state officials tighten security

military installations go on high alert

Glendening declares emergency

section of downtown cordoned off

Terrorism Strikes America


September 12, 2001|By Caitlin Francke and Laura Sullivan | Caitlin Francke and Laura Sullivan,SUN STAFF

Military installations across Maryland went on high alert yesterday, bracing for the possibility of additional terrorist attacks.

At the same time, city and state officials, trying to secure their streets against a threat they could not identify, ordered buildings evacuated, armed police officers with machine guns and parked sand-filled dump trucks as barriers.

While bases across the country tightened security, installations in the Baltimore-Washington area were taking especially intense security measures because of the area's proximity to New York and Washington. Many bases, including Fort Meade, are expected to be closed to visitors and operating on skeleton shifts through today.

Yesterday, traffic backed up for miles outside the bases - Fort Meade, Fort Detrick, Aberdeen Proving Ground, the Patuxent River Naval Air Station and the U.S. Naval Academy - as authorities opened trunks and checked under cars with mirrors, allowing only visitors with approved military credentials inside.

"What's a target is anyone's guess," said Fort Meade spokeswoman Kathy Vantran. "It's been a totally shocking day. Anything could happen."

The National Security Agency evacuated shortly after 10 a.m., sending all nonessential workers home. At the Naval Academy, officials closed the campus gates and those of the neighboring naval station to all traffic and pulled students from class. Students spent the day on the deserted campus gathered around communal television sets in the school's dorm, Bancroft Hall.

By 11:45 a.m., Fort Meade in Anne Arundel County had gone into its highest stage of alert, "Def Con Delta."

Base employees were stunned as the security level was announced through a closed-circuit television station and e-mail. None could remember being at a security level so high.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening declared a state of emergency by 11:30 a.m. as local officials opened emergency operation centers and placed police forces on unprecedented levels of alert. Roughly 200 members of a Maryland National Guard military police unit were federalized and dispatched to Washington.

Maryland officials evacuated the State House complex in Annapolis and the World Trade Center in Baltimore yesterday morn- ing - about two hours after the attack in New York - when state officials received what they believed was "credible" information that both places could be targets of attack. Last night, Quentin Leroy Johnson, 22, of Southwest Baltimore was arrested on charges of causing a false investigation.

Glendening and Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend spent most of the day at the state's emergency operations center in Reisterstown, Camp Fretterd Military Installation. The governor returned to the capital last night.

In Baltimore, Mayor Martin O'Malley and Police Commissioner Edward T. Norris announced that all available police officers were being called in and placed on 12-hour shifts in the event of an emergency.

"Everything we are doing is precautionary," Norris said. The state of emergency will last "indefinitely," he said.

Police cordoned off the area downtown around police headquarters, the World Trade Center, City Hall and the Clarence M. Mitchell Courthouse. Some streets are expected to remain closed today to protect what city officials called "sensitive areas."

City police also stationed tactical officers - wearing helmets and body armor and carrying submachine guns - outside city police headquarters, City Hall, the Inner Harbor and other buildings downtown. Police were placed in positions to protect city hospitals.

The Department of Public Works deployed dump trucks, loaded with salt, sand or gravel, near police headquarters and at several intersections downtown, designed to serve as a shield against possible car bomb explosions.

O'Malley was en route to New York yesterday to help his younger brother, Patrick, campaign for City Council there. But just after crossing the New Jersey line in the morning, he heard about the attack and returned to the city.

"This is just a horrendous day for our country - just devastating," he said. "What has happened in New York is unspeakable."

As he spoke, traffic backed up on the city's main north-south streets as hundreds of people fled the city to gather their children and go home. It seemed as if rush-hour had arrived at 11:30 in the morning.

"They bombed the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, maybe its coming this way," said city resident Sheila Clancy, standing outside Mitchell Courthouse. "There's a possibility it could happen here."

Tension ran through the city at lunchtime when workers spilled out of closed buildings such as the Garmatz Federal Courthouse on West Lombard Street, Fallon Federal Building at Hopkins Plaza and the William Donald Schaefer Tower at Baltimore and Light streets.

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