Archive for Tuesday, September 11, 2001

State government reacts to terrorist attacks

September 11, 2001


— Planes were diverted to Kansas airports and security tightened at government buildings Tuesday following the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

State officials moved quickly to increase security around the Statehouse and Gov. Bill Graves. In Kansas City, Kan., the federal courthouse closed, according to a report from KCTV, the Kansas City, Mo., CBS-TV affiliate.

In Washington, Sen. Pat Roberts called the attacks "unconscionable" and said it shows the nation has to beef up its intelligence capabilities. Roberts serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

"I have to tell you, this is an intelligence failure," Roberts said during an interview. "It just seems to me we ought to be thinking outside the box ... This is war."

Dozens of flights were diverted to Wichita's Mid-Continent Airport and three the Garden City Regional Airport, where the fire department used a hook-and-ladder truck to remove passengers from the jets.

Guards were posted at all Kansas National Guard armories, limiting access to them, said Steve Larson, the guard's assistant public affairs officer.

The 184th Bomb Wing at Wichita's McConnell Air Force Base and the 190th Air Refueling Wing at Topeka's Forbes Field also were on alert, Larson said.

The state limited access to the Statehouse and its office buildings in Topeka, requiring visitors to enter through only one entrance.

A system that allows people who work in the Statehouse to enter through any entrance with a special security pass also was disabled, and two of three entrances for vehicle traffic also were closed down.

Joyce Glasscock, secretary of administration, said the Statehouse security detail, normally one Kansas Highway Patrol officer, had been increased to four officers. She ordered security increased despite a lack of threats to the building.

"I'd rather be safe," she said.

Graves was in Wichita, attending the Midwest U.S.-Japan Trade Conference, but he was grounded after all air traffic in the nation was halted.

Glasscock said she was in contact with the Kansas Highway Patrol to put additional security near the governor. Graves still planned to travel later Tuesday to Hutchinson to visit the Kansas State Fair.

"The governor never hesitated," said spokesman Don Brown. "He's proceeding with his schedule uninterrupted."

Glasscock said she asked to be notified of any security threats to the Statehouse and whether additional measures need to be taken.

There have been no threats, she said.

Joy Moser, spokeswoman for the state adjutant general's office, said the state had moved its threat condition to "bravo" and additional security people were called in.

The adjutant general's office oversees the state's emergency management and the National Guard.

"We're wearing both hats right now," Moser said.

One commercial aircraft had landed in Salina, Larson said, and passengers were taken to Nickell Barracks at the National Guard's training center there.

In Garden City, three large commercial flights landed at the small airport, which is not equipped for such visitors.

A United Airlines 757, Air Canada 727 and a US Airways Airbus 300 carrying hundreds of passengers landed safely at Garden City Regional Airport.

Because the airport has no ramps that will reach the large planes, the fire department used its ladder truck to get passengers to the ground. They were taken by school bus to Garden City High School.

In Wichita, 30 flights were diverted to Mid-Continent Airport, said Jessica Johnson, a spokeswoman for the city manager's office. She said hotels and apartment complexes were donating rooms, and residents were bringing food to the airport.

But she said city officials were advising people to stay away from the airport because of the crowds.

"We anticipate that we have over 1,000 people," she said.

She also said the city had not yet taken any additional security measures. However, aircraft manufacturer Boeing Inc., had announced it had heightened awareness at the site near McConnell.

Additional guards were placed at the two public entrances at the Finney State Office Building in Wichita. Employees at state buildings leased from private owners were told to contact their landlords about increasing security measures, Glasscock's agency said.

Despite the heightened security, two legislative committees met in the Statehouse, while the State Board of Education met two blocks east.

Morning classes were canceled at Washburn University in Topeka. The status of classes at other state universities was not immediately known.

At the University of Kansas, students were gathered around televisions at the student union watching developments. Spokesman Todd Cohen said it was more crowded than during a Jayhawk basketball game, but dead silent.

The university is trying to contact international students on campus and students studying abroad, Cohen said. Classes on the main campus in Lawrence were not canceled, though counselors were made available for students and faculty.

A spokesman for the U.S. Marshals Service in Topeka declined to comment on what security measures have been taken at federal buildings in the state. The spokesman also would not comment if any threats have been made to federal buildings in the state.

Security at the Frank Carlson Federal Building in Topeka was tight, with three marshals stationed at the entrance. Inside, employees gathered around televisions and declined to talk to reporters.

The building houses both federal courtrooms and government offices.

In August 1993, a man who was to be sentenced on drugs and weapons charges, attacked the building, throwing homemade pipe bombs inside. He killed a security officer and wounded five other people before blowing himself up.

Access to Fort Riley was restricted to Department of Defense personnel only, public affairs officer Deb Skidmore said. Only four entrances to the military post remained open, but all vehicles were being stopped and checked.

No troops from the post have been deployed in response to the attacks, she said.

The deployment of 3,300 troops to the National Training Center in California is still moving forward, though could change. Troops would be traveling by aircraft for the monthlong mission.

There are more than 10,000 soldiers and their families based at Fort Riley.

Janet Ray, spokeswoman at Fort Leavenworth, said the post had increased security. Access is limited to the main entrance and military police are stopping all vehicles at the main gate. About 5,600 military and civilians work at the post, which is also home to the U.S. Military Disciplinary Barracks.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.