Seatac, other Washington state airports secure

Posted: Tuesday, September 11, 2001

SEATTLE -- Airports, military bases and public buildings throughout Washington state boosted security Tuesday after the worst terrorism attacks in the nation's history devastated New York City's World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

Outgoing flights were canceled at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and Spokane International Airport as part of a national stand-down of air traffic after aircraft crashed into the New York towers and the Pentagon. Planes were being allowed to land, however, as the airport went to emergency procedures, said Sea-Tac spokesman Bob Parker.

Ilse Reissner, whose flight home to Orlando, Fla., was ordered back to Sea-Tac, was among the thousands of passengers who jammed the airport.

"I think it's an act of war -- absolutely terrible," she said.

"They bombed the Pentagon. What else is there?"

No threats were reported anywhere in the state, but public officials were jittery as the horrific news of the East Coast attacks spread.

Although Gov. Gary Locke ordered the state Capitol building closed to the public, he refused to evacuate the building and said it would re-open as soon as possible.

"We are not going to shut down the government," Locke told a news conference in the Capitol. "The last thing we want to do is give the terrorists any satisfaction."

Locke said the state emergency management center has been activated and officials are reviewing security at bridges, tunnels and dams around the state.

Earlier, Locke's spokeswoman Dana Middleton said, "It is our understanding through our military channels that there are no targets in Washington."

However, Washington state ferries stopped carrying vehicles on routes across Puget Sound because of the risk of car bombs. Spokeswoman Susan Harries says the ferry system took the step at the recommendation of the Coast Guard. Foot passengers could continue to ride, and cars were being allowed on routes to Vashon and the San Juan Islands, so cars would not be stranded on the islands.

"We are being extremely safety conscious," said Roger Nyhus, spokesman for Seattle Mayor Paul Schell. The city activated its emergency operations center, and police officers were stationed at the Space Needle, Columbia Tower and other city landmarks.

"We have checked the Space Needle, the Federal Building, any large buildings looking for large packages or anything that might be out of place," police spokesman Clem Benton said. "This is just a precautionary measure."

The Space Needle was closed for the day as a precaution, as was the 76-story Columbia Tower.

The federal Court House downtown also was placed on high alert, Nyhus said, but was not immediately evacuated.

At McChord Air Force Base south of Tacoma, "We are now in a heightened state of awareness," said spokesman Staff Sgt. Scott McNabb. "Basically, everybody's I.D. is getting checked and we're making sure that our people are coming on base and everybody's extra cautious and trying to make sure that we're all safe."

Security also was increased at the Navy's Bangor submarine base on Hood Canal, one of the nation's largest nuclear arsenals, and at other military and defense installations around Washington.

The Hanford nuclear reservation was placed on a heightened level of security, with identification required of all people entering and leaving, said Mike Talbot, spokesman for the Department of Energy.

Washington State Patrol troopers were checking abandoned vehicles and the state's bridges, again as a precaution, said spokeswoman Monica Hunter. The U.S. Border Patrol likewise boosted its security.

"We've taken all available manpower and we're working around the ports of entry," said John Bates, a Border Patrol deputy chief. "We're trying to be prepared for anything that might happen in those highly targetable areas."

Thousands of people at the Seattle airport waited in line to check or rebook flights, and thousands of others milled about, with no place to go.

Honeymooning couple Chris and Evalynn Barrett of Bellevue were waiting for a word on a flight to Cabo San Lucas in Mexico.

"We were the first in line to book our flight again for tomorrow, but we're not sure we want to got right now," said Chris Barrett, 29. "We can plan our honeymoon on the ground."

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