Arundel reacts with the world

September 16, 2001|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,SUN STAFF

Planes stopped flying.

A mother and daughter stopped to give thanks for a change in plans that saved a life.

And, at the end of the week, county police stopped for a silent salute to the fallen.

In Anne Arundel County, stories of lives interrupted abounded in the wake of the terrorist attack on the United States.

Here are a few:

Cathy Holstrom was glad to have her 24-year-old daughter, Allison, in Maryland.

Allison Holstrom was supposed to be at the World Trade Center on Tuesday morning to work the 8-to-5 shift at the Warner Brothers Studio store, where she's an assistant manager.

Instead, the 1994 graduate of South River High School extended her weekend at home in Riva to help her mother with a fund-raiser Tuesday night for Food Link, an Annapolis-based hunger relief agency.

"Part of me is sighing with relief because I wasn't there," said Holstrom, who moved to New York in June. "On the other hand, you're emotionally crushed by the thought that so many people lost their lives and are still unaccounted for."

A conference table was set up, and more than a dozen phones were connected in a basement room of the county's fire headquarters in Millersville. For two days, it would serve as the Emergency Operations Center.

Deli trays were brought in, and generators were turned on to fuel the round-the-clock coordination among county department heads. They discussed whether to close schools, when to allow nonessential employees to leave county offices and other such issues.

Fearing the county's water supply could be contaminated by terrorists, officials assigned a police officer to guard the county's water treatment plant.

"We've never had to consider such a thing before," said County Executive Janet S. Owens.

Robert Witcher, owner of the Victory Lounge in Pasadena, decided to put his money where his patriotic mouth is.

The sign outside the Mountain Road bar read: "My Tax Relief Goes Back to the U.S. Military."

Witcher, who plans to send his $300 tax rebate to the relief effort, said, "I imagine if we started a campaign, a lot of people would do it."

At Fort Meade, where the base was on the highest state of alert this week, military police officers wearing Kevlar helmets and toting M-16 rifles stood in front of concrete barriers at all entrances, several of which were closed.

Drivers sat in line for as long as four hours before reaching the security checkpoint, where military police looked under the hoods, inside the trunks and throughout the interiors of all vehicles entering the base. They searched all bags and used mirrors to check the undersides of cars.

Several vehicles overheated. Others ran out of gas. But few drivers complained about the wait.

"I just got back from Egypt, and this is just what it was like there," said Maj. John C. Flowers, 40. "I realize this is necessary. I feel safe with these security precautions."

Annapolis took on a different look.

It's a seat of government, but it's never been a town where office workers travel with photo identification tags dangling from chains around their necks.

Now, employees are asked to show government badges at state court buildings.

The Courts of Appeals and the Administrative Office of the Courts buildings, which had no security until last week, now have state Department of General Services guards at all entrances.

Entrances to the Naval Academy were blocked with sandbags and concrete barriers. And downtown was notable for what was no longer there: City streets were eerily devoid of white-uniformed Naval Academy students.

Anne Arundel County schools Superintendent Carol S. Parham and nine school employees were in San Diego at a conference when they heard of the attacks Tuesday.

Knowing that planes would not be taking off any time soon, they rented two minivans and hit the road back to Maryland.

Forty-eight hours and 2,700 miles later, Parham was home.

"I felt a tremendous need to be back with my school system, to do what I needed to make sure the students were safe," Parham said.

At Baltimore-Washington International Airport, travelers endured long waits and extra security precautions when the airport finally reopened Thursday.

Airman William Chapman wasn't upset about having his duffel bags emptied onto a table - his clothes, soap and toothbrush piled as if on display - as a guard wearing rubber gloveschecked each piece.

"As long as it makes things safer, it's worth the 10 minutes," he said.

Many passengers, like 41-year-old Gregory Szynalski, were stranded without their luggage when the airport abruptly closed Tuesday. Szynalski's bags were on an Air Jamaica jet under airport security guard at an undisclosed location.

Szynalski, of Nazareth, Pa., headed to Wal-Mart to buy some clothes after he "sweet-talked" clerks at a Marriott to give him and his two companions a room. It wasn't the Jamaican holiday they were expecting, but the group was trying to make the best of it.

"If we have to stay another night," he said, "we're going to buy swimming suits and go swimming."

At noon Friday, Anne Arundel County police broadcast a 10-3 - the police radio code for silence.

The dispatcher asked officers to pause in "recognition of the victims of the recent terrorist attacks on our nation, many of which are our fellow public safety officers."

While patrol officers heeded that call, county police Chief P. Thomas Shanahan stood with police commanders and support staff. A man delivering office supplies paused to join them.

They recited the Pledge of Allegiance. Then they bowed their heads and prayed.

Sun staff writers Stephen Kiehl, Rona Kobell, Jackie Powder and Andrea F. Siegel contributed to this article.

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