Archive for Wednesday, September 12, 2001

Local authorities take precautions following attack

September 12, 2001

As the American public woke up Tuesday morning to the broadcast of the most heinous attack on United States soil since Pearl Harbor, precautions were being undertaken by several local agencies.

On Tuesday, Sept. 11, a series of terrorists hijackings and kamikaze air crashes destroyed the World Trade Center towers in New York and heavily damaged the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

The long arm of terrorism not only reached far enough to cause concern at the Fort Leavenworth military base and the Leavenworth County Courthouse, but also at the Basehor-Linwood School District and Basehor City Hall.

Access to Fort Leavenworth was limited to military personnel only on Tuesday. All entrances to the base were closed except at the main gate.

Fort Leavenworth public information officer Janet Ray said the heightened security precautions at the fort would stay intact for the foreseeable future.

"It's a situation in the world where it is obvious that terrorists are capable of attacking American soil and that is why the Army has gone to the controlled access here at the base," Ray said.

Fort Leavenworth has approximately 3,100 military personnel on the base and 2,500 civilian employees.

Unconfirmed reports indicated that all civilian employees were escorted off the base on Tuesday.

The Leavenworth County Courthouse also undertook slight precautions because of the attacks.eavenworth County sheriff's deputy outside the courthouse and clearing the parking lots closest to the courthouse.

"In a situation like this, you have to think of the target and the government is always a target," Leavenworth County assistant emergency management coordinator Debbie Winetroub said.

While the attacks on the East Coast brought concern to government entities, the terrorists also fulfilled their mission of creating fear.

Some parents took their children out of area schools.

At least five students from the Basehor-Linwood School District were pulled out of school at their parents' requests on Tuesday.

Although the attacks created fear for some parents, School District Superintendent Cal Cormack said the administration at all the schools in the district tried to maintain an everyday environment, while keeping students away from the media exposure concerning the attacks.

"We have just tried to maintain a normal, calm, any-other-day environment in all the schools," Cormack said.

The safety of the students was put first during and after school. All after-school activities were cancelled, school officials said.

The Basehor Police Department was also keeping a closer eye on the schools as well as Basehor City Hall throughout the day of the attacks.

"It is terrible thing that has happened," Basehor Police Chief Vince Weston said. "Until we have the facts of who was involved, we have to practice restraint."

Flags at BLHS and City Hall were flown at half-mast on Tuesday.

The precautions taken in Leavenworth County were calm compared to those being done in the Kansas City metro area, where several federal, state and county offices were closed.

All incoming and outgoing flights at Kansas City International airport were grounded for the day.

KCI officials said none of the planes that were used in the attacks on Tuesday were scheduled to land at KCI, however, the immediate landings of all planes were done for security reasons.

"There are so many uncertainties at this point that we don't know what is going to happen next," KCI airport manager Joe McBride said.

All air ambulances were also grounded for the day.

A firsthand account

Basehor-Linwood High School graduate Tracy Lingo currently lives in Astoria, Queens, a borough of New York City and witnessed the frenzied events of the day unfold.

"It is just chaotic," Lingo said in a telephone interview on Tuesday afternoon. "People don't know where to go and ambulances have dust all over them. You can see the smoke from the towers in Connecticut."

Lingo had arrived at work shortly after the first plane crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers. Confusion filled the next few minutes before the second plane hit.

Lingo, who works near the Empire State Building, some 20 blocks from the crash, said the city was grid-locked with no subways, buses or traffic moving throughout the city.

"They aren't letting any traffic in or out," she said.

It took Lingo more than two hours to make the long walk home to safety.

Local veteran speaks

Basehor resident Harry Kelley is familiar with the actions surrounding the event most compared with the Tuesday attacks, Pearl Harbor.

Kelley, a former Japanese prisoner of war, said the attack was reminiscent of the Japanese sneak attack that signaled the United States's entrance into World War II.

He also expressed displeasure with the U.S. government's actions that he thought allowed the attack.

"This country needed something like this to wake these people up," Kelley said. "They don't know what a bombed out city looks like. I know because I have seen them. This country needs to quit kissing everyone else's ass and take care of themselves."

The executive statement

President George W. Bush summed up the feelings of many Americans in a brief statement Tuesday afternoon.

"Freedom itself was attacked this morning and I assure you freedom will be defended. Make no mistake, the United States will hunt down and pursue those responsible for these cowardly actions."

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