Security Felt Across U.S.
September 12, 2002
American public found out yesterday what it means
when the White House warns of a high risk of
terrorist attack: more security -- and more jitters
-- at airports, seaports, borders, malls, amusement
parks and other well-traveled places.
On a day
when millions of people paused to remember the
events of last Sept. 11, law enforcement agencies
and private security forces were more visible than
usual and more inclined to react to any suspicious
behavior. Coupled with the emotions generated by the
anniversary itself, Attorney General John D.
Ashcroft's decision Tuesday to raise the the
nation's terror alert index to its second
highest-level created an edgy feeling in many
commercial flights were diverted during the day, a
foreign ship was put out to sea awaiting additional
inspection and a 41-story office tower that houses
the Ohio Supreme Court was evacuated after a
deliveryman allegedly declared that he was looking
for a place to hide a bomb. Ohio officials said they
later found materials that could be used to make a
bomb in the man's van, which was parked at a loading
dock. He was arrested and charged with inducing a
first airplane incident unfolded yesterday morning
on a Northwest Airlines flight from Memphis to Las
Vegas. According to several officials, passengers
and flight attendants became suspicious during the
flight when three dark-complected men began going
into and out of a lavatory, one at a time, in quick
succession. They appeared to be carrying a shaving
kit and passengers were concerned that the men were
shaving or passing razors around, sources said.
attendants related their concerns and "the
pilot decided to divert the plane as a
precaution," according to a statement from
Northwest Airlines. He landed at a regional airport
in Fort Smith, Ark., where four men were detained by
the FBI, and the other 90 passengers left the plane
without incident. Three of the men were charged last
night with interfering with a flight crew, a federal
offense, and the fourth man was released,
three were identified as Havinder Singh, 41;
Alaaeldin Adbelsalam, 37, and Gurdeep Wander, 48.
Other details remained sketchy last night.
second incident, an American Airlines flight from
Houston to Dallas returned to Bush Intercontinental
Airport yesterday afternoon when a flight attendant
saw a passenger wielding what she thought was a
knife or straight razor. It turned out to be a
folding comb, officials said.
Coast Guard, meanwhile, ordered a container ship in
Port Elizabeth, N.J., back out to sea after sensors
detected apparent traces of radioactivity in its
cargo. The Liberian-flagged ship was moved about six
miles off the coast while the FBI and Coast Guard
made plans to extensively search its 655 containers.
Authorities said they had not yet determined what
triggered the sensors.
was seeking a place to dock the ship so the
containers can be inspected. Authorities were
reluctant to do the inspection at a commercial port.
Sources said one container was marked on the
manifest as holding Iranian rugs.
the country, authorities were exerting extra
caution. The Customs Service stepped up its
inspections at places such as the Ambassador Bridge
in Detroit, the busiest commercial border crossing
in the nation. Inspectors more closely examined
contents of commercial trucks and passenger vehicles
and spent more time interviewing drivers and
examining paperwork, officials said. Despite the
additional scrutiny, no significant delays were
reported. Many police departments put extra officers
in uniform yesterday.
I know is that orange to me means, 'get ready,'
" said Bill Berger, head of the International
Association of Chiefs of Police. "I get ready
by spending money that I don't have," said
Berger, chief of police in North Miami Beach.
Washington area, Pentagon officials said they had
loaded missiles into antiaircraft batteries as they
bolstered air defenses. Defense Secretary Donald H.
Rumsfeld ordered the live Stinger missiles moved out
of storage and positioned with launchers at the
Pentagon and other locations after the terror
warning was issued. Security was noticeably tighter
at public places such as Walt Disney World, where
additional uniformed security officers were on duty;
the Sears Tower, where Chicago police and private
security forces increased patrols; and the Mall of
America in Bloomington, Minn., the nation's largest
shopping center. Officials said crowds appeared
about average and reported no problems.
in some cities said many people chose to stay home
yesterday. Ridership of the Washington Metro was
down about 4.8 percent from last Wednesday. Traffic
was reported lighter in Detroit and other places.
and airlines reported an unusually quiet day, with
less than half the usual number of passengers in
terminals and planes. "Given what today is . .
. everyone is extra vigilant," a government
source said, adding that a Department of
Transportation call center was swamped with tips
from passengers and flight crews.
at the region's three airports yesterday cut 90
flights, or 6 percent and 10 percent of their daily
schedules, because of reduced air travel.
writers Sara Kehaulani Goo, Lyndsey Layton, Bradley
Graham, Susan Schmidt and Katherine Shaver
contributed to this report.
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