Annapolis Fire and Explosive Services unit is parked near the… (Barbara Haddock Taylor,…)
Annapolis residents are used to their city being the center of attention — as the home of the State House and Naval Academy, it has hosted frequent presidential visits and a Middlde East peace summit.
But when streets filled with emergency equipment and TV trucks Thursday because a flash of fire and smoke came from a package sent to the governor, jaws dropped.
"We are kind of stunned that it happened here," said Marta Staples, who works at a jewelry store around the corner from the Jeffrey Building, where a mailroom worker was injured in the incident.
"None of us know really what's going on," Staples said. What snippets of information she got at Tilghman Co. Jewelers came from people who walked into the store in the historic district after seeing yellow crime scene tape blocking off Francis Street, where the government building sits.
The incendiary device at the Jeffrey Building was one of two that ignited Thursday at state government buildings. Another was sent to the Maryland Department of Transportation headquarters in Hanover.
As the sun fell, people hurrying home to escape the dropping temperature said they found it unsettling to learn that a building in downtown Annapolis, an area often called quaint for its narrow brick-paved streets with flags flying, had been a target.
"I think it's scary that happened," said Mary Ann Donaghy, who was heading to her home in nearby Murray Hill. "You just never know."
TV trucks were still out, but the crime scene tape and cluster of investigators' SUVs were gone.
It was a far cry from the early afternoon when a helicopter hovered overhead.
Then, Francis Street, a skinny thoroughfare connecting State Circle — and the State House itself — to the Main Street business and tourist hub was stuffed with emergency equipment, investigators' vehicles, and news media tripods. TV trucks lined the circle.
Even after crime scene tape came down around 2:30 p.m., the street remained impassable for an hour except by foot, as a city fire and explosives truck and other vehicles filled it.
Residents have had to deal with road closings before — but mainly as the result of visits from dignitaries. Last summer, first lady Michelle Obama toured the State House and went to the Naval Academy, a trip that led to roads being blocked and a small crowd craning necks for a glimpse of her.
And in 2007, the Naval Academy campus was home to a Middle East peace summit, addressed by President George W. Bush and his secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice.
Thursday, officials kept the action around the State House so quiet that some passersby were clueless.
"We heard some sirens, and the next we knew there were police cars," said Melanie Murphy, who operates the Annapolis Pottery, which is on the corner almost adjacent to the Jeffrey Building.
"We thought, are we setting that off?" she said. The store has three kilns for firing pottery.
After learning of the incendiary device, she realized that "nobody was panicking." Still, her phone rang with calls from worried out-of-town family and friends who heard about the incident on the news.
Baltimore Sun reporter Julie Bykowicz contributed to this article.