Area communities on alert in wake of terrorist attack

By Steve Powell

Herald Writer

Cities and agencies in Snohomish and Island counties were in various stages of alert today after planes crashed into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and World Trade Center in New York City.

City leaders also expressed sadness for the tragedy.

All U.S. Navy facilities in the Puget Sound area went on high alert this morning.

Long lines of vehicles waited outside Naval Station Everett throughout the morning while guards checked identification of vehicle occupants. The same rules were in effect at Whidbey Island.

Regional spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr. Kim Marks said military security was heightened.

"We’re taking all precautionary measures throughout the region," she said, although she refused to expand on that.

Church services

Many area churches will open their doors for services to deal with the tragedy.

They include:

Greater Trinity Missionary Baptist Church, 1129 4th Ave. W, 6:30 p.m.

Immaculate Conception Church, 2619 Cedar St., regular 6 p.m. Mass

Woodside New Life Church, 9015 44th Drive NE, 7 p.m. Wednesday

In Seattle:

St. James Cathedral, 910 Marion St., Seattle, Mass 5:30 p.m., Interfaith Prayer Service 7 p.m.

St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral, 1245 10th Ave. E, Seattle, multifaith service, 7 p.m.

Three ships assigned to the Everett Naval Station, the destroyer USS Fife and frigates Ford and Rodney M. Davis, made unscheduled trips to sea, apparent efforts to disperse the fleet.

Marks called that a precaution.

The nation’s borders were not closed, contrary to what some television and radio stations were reporting, said Virginia Kice, Northwest regional spokeswoman for the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.

"There was a brief closure about 7 a.m. in Lynden, Wash., because of a suspicious package," Kice said, "but that was cleared, and they’re reopening."

Because the Pentagon was one of the terrorist targets, U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., called that "a very rational response."

The Navy’s support center at Smokey Point closed about 8:30 this morning, and personnel were turning visitors away. Marysville police, working with Arlington police and the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office, have been asked to provide security at the complex.

Snohomish County Executive Bob Drewel said at a news conference at 12:30 today that the county has been put on alert, and the Department of Emergency Management has opened its communications center.

It will remain open until the state says otherwise. However, he and Everett Mayor Ed Hansen said there is no information of a security threat in the area.

Drewel urged people not to make snap judgments toward people based on their race or ethnicity.

"I would call on every citizen to be respectful of the diversity in the county," he said.

In Marysville, the city activated its emergency operations center at 7:45 a.m.

The Marysville Public Safety Building at 1635 Grove St. is requiring all visitors with police, fire or municipal court-related business to provide photo identification and to sign in before entering the building.

Police at City Hall are monitoring traffic to and from the building, including recording license plates.

"While this may cause inconveniences for local residents, it is deemed necessary in the interests of public safety," said Doug Buell, the city’s community information officer.

City officials followed procedures laid out in the city’s disaster plan to ensure that local public facilities such as buildings, reservoirs, lift stations, wastewater treatment plant and bridges are under watch by designated city employees.

Police and fire officials stepped up security at city public offices.

Snohomish County law enforcement agencies were in a state of heightened alert and coordination with other emergency departments, but took no other visible actions.

"There is no quantifiable or established threat to anything local," said Sgt. Boyd Bryant, Everett police spokesman.

"Go look at the streets," he said. "They are deserted. People are inside watching TV. Nobody is moving around."

Jan Jorgensen, spokeswoman for the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office, said officials there were coordinating with county and state emergency management officials, but no other steps had been taken.

Here is a wrap-up of what else is going on locally:

Rob Putnam, airport manager at the Arlington Airport, said he called the FAA’s flight services telephone line this morning when he heard of the East Coast attack.

"All flights are canceled," he said, adding that one plane whose pilot had not heard the news did come in from the south this morning.

The small airport has 135,000 takeoffs and landings a year, Putnam said.

In the Arlington School District, older students were allowed to watch the events on TV; younger ones were not.

For the most part, they watched in silence.

"There is just an overwhelming sadness in looking at this," said Linda Byrnes of the school district.

"We are jointly watching this national tragedy, trying to make sure we are helping the kids dealing with what they are watching," Byrnes said. "This is a total change in the rest of our lives."

City spokeswoman Joyce Goedeke said the city had activated its emergency operations center at a Level 1, the lowest level, as a precautionary measure.

"At this time, all personnel on duty are ready to go in our community," she said.

The city topped off its drinking water supplies. And gas tanks on city vehicles were also topped off, Goedeke said.

Business was as usual in Brier this morning. City Clerk Norma Wilds said city staffers were "listening to the radio and praying."

Mayor Gary Haakenson said the city has opened its Emergency Operations Center.

"It is a sad day in our country’s history," Haakenson said. "Flags are being flown at half-staff in honor of those who lost their lives today."

City employees are on alert for anything out of the ordinary.

The city has opened its Emergency Operations Center to "place the city in a state of readiness," Hansen said.

"Certainly, we’ve got to take these things seriously," Hansen said. "(But, we’re) not aware of any specific threats (to the city)."

Hansen said he would meet with city departments heads. Police and fire chiefs also had the authority to bring in additional people if necessary, Hansen said.

Meanwhile, an announcement was made at the beginning of the school day at Everett High School early Tuesday morning, and teachers were told to make sure they were conscious of student needs.

Guidelines were given on how the television would be used.

"We are trying to be sensitive to watching it," said principal Pat Sullivan. "We are not just turning it on and watching it unfold because we don’t know what it is going to happen."

City administrator Bill Verwolf said City Hall and city business is being conducted as normal as possible and as many police as possible have been put in uniform.

"We’re in a heightened state of security," he said. "We’re trying to be watchful and yet not overreact."

City administrator Dave O’Leary said regular operations are continuing. However, he said city officials are "being watchful and vigilant."

"We have emergency procedures in place that we’ll be able to implement if there is need to," O’Leary said. "We laid a lot of these plans back (preparing for) the year 2000. It’s really unlikely that we in our little city would need to implement these things, but we’re looking for anything unusual."

I’m shocked and horrified at today’s appalling terrorist attacks against the United States of America. My heart goes out to all the victims of today’s senseless attacks.

"I echo the statement from President Bush earlier today that this cowardly action will not stand.

"The business of government will go on and that includes state government.

"Terrorists cannot and will not bring Americans to their knees. The American spirit will prevail.

"To our citizens and state employees, I assure you that we are taking all precautionary measures to ensure your safety.

"I have ordered flags at all state facilities to be lowered to half-staff and encourage all organizations, businesses, schools and institutions across Washington to lower their flags to half-staff.

"We must all remain vigilant. More importantly, I urge you to keep the families and friends of the victims and rescue workers in your thoughts and prayers."

City manager Bill McDonald said the decision was made at midmorning that the city’s emergency center would not be mobilized.

"But we are in a state of alert," he said. "We have sent city officials to inspect all our critical facilities, all public buildings and all bridges."

Officials, including local police officers and firefighters, looked for anything suspicious, he said, such as abandoned vehicles or unmarked boxes.

"There is no expectation that we will be directly affected here in Snohomish," he said. "But we are in a heightened state of awareness."

One of the first things that was addressed in the city was making sure that no flights took off from Harvey Airfield.

"Harvey Airfield is part of the FAA directive that no planes take off anywhere in the U.S.," McDonald said. "We sent someone out there to officially make sure that that was understood."

Kandice Harvey, owner of airfield, confirmed that the airport was closed at about 9:30 a.m.

"We have canceled all flights and we have blockaded the runways so that no one can fly," she said.

The directive came from the FAA, and apparently most local pilots had heard the news because the airport has been quiet. About 400 planes per day take off from Harvey Field.

McDonald said police were sent to Snohomish schools.

"It is our feeling that having officers visible in the schools is something that may help today," he said.

Otherwise, McDonald said City Hall remains open.

Deception Pass Bridge, one of the state’s most popular tourist attractions, was closed to visitors this morning.

The day’s events also prompted cancellation of a ceremony planned for Wednesday to note the opening of the newly constructed viewpoint at the bridge.

Five of six gates at the Whidbey Naval Air Station were closed, leaving just the Charles Porter gate open. A 100-percent identification check was in effect, and no one without a Department of Defense ID card could get onto the base.

"All the gates are closed, except this one," said Anthony Popp, a spokesman for the base. Security has been heightened, he added, including at military housing neighborhoods in the area.

Like the rest of the country, Oak Harbor residents were left in a numbed state of shock over the morning’s events.

Mary Woodbury, a retired Navy anti-submarine warfare specialist who lives in Oak Harbor. "I have friends who work at the Pentagon."

"It’s World War III, I’m afraid. Bush has already mentioned retaliation, what does that mean?"

Signs of support and hope were already springing up throughout Oak Harbor, a military town with strong ties to the Navy.

Leslie Steinbach, an assistant manager at Dugualla Bay Farms, was putting up a reader board message outside the business on Highway 20 that read: "We will prevail Together United."

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