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Missouri state government on alert following attacks

Tuesday, September 11, 2001

Associated Press WriterJEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Missouri government stepped up its security Tuesday after terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C.

Gov. Bob Holden put the Missouri National Guard, Missouri State Highway Patrol and the State Emergency Management Agency on alert.

Additional security officers were placed on duty at state office buildings in St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield and Jefferson City.

Holden spokesman Jerry Nachtigal said the governor had been on the phone all morning contacting state agencies about the situation.

"At this time, state business will continue as usual with a heightened sense of awareness," Nachtigal said. "The governor is asking everyone at the state level to increase their level of awareness given today's circumstances."

Senate President Pro Tem Peter Kinder was incensed by the attack and said he felt that every citizen was at risk.

"This is war," Kinder said. "We've got to be on alert and it's a very grave situation and I repeat, it's war, it's a new kind of war. We're at war with somebody."

The state Senate went ahead with a short legislative session Tuesday morning but canceled a committee hearing on collective bargaining, said Senate spokesman Mark Hughes.

"We'll weigh the risks and plan accordingly," Hughes said.

Citing "the catastrophic events," State Auditor Claire McCaskill canceled a noon news conference on a recent audit about food expenses in state government.

Capt. Chris Ricks, a spokesman for the Highway Patrol, said he doesn't believe Missouri faces any imminent threat.

"But we're going to be alert and be cautious and ask the people to be cautious and to let us know if something looks wrong to them," Ricks said. "We are very aware of terrorist activities, even though it doesn't seem to ever happen in our country, this is something that is going to change that attitude quite a bit."

Capt. Lou Tedeschi of the Capitol Police said extra security was being brought in as a precaution with the hope that state workers won't feel threatened.

"We're going to be vigilant to make sure people are comfortable coming to work," Tedeschi said. "There is no intelligence information to indicate that state government is a target in any way."

The Gateway Arch in St. Louis was closed.

Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., said he had heard an explosion in Washington and was evacuating his office.

"This is a time for a quick prayer for the souls who have been taken in this concerted tragedy ... it's time for us to realize there are forces of evil in this world," Bond said.

Across the state and nation, commercial flights were banned. Passengers awaiting flights were asked to return home. Cars parked curbside at both airports were moved.

A Federal Aviation Administration Building in Kansas City was evacuated. A spokesman for the U.S. Marshal Service at the federal courthouse in Kansas City said business would continue.

"It makes you wonder what's going to happen next," one employee at the FAA building said. "It's happening on the east coast, but it could happen anywhere."

In the towering, new federal building in St. Louis, U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Mummert said that while he had not been officially notified to be more vigilant, "I see more people walking around the building right now with uniforms on."

"It's frightening," Mummert said while watching unfolding TV coverage of the New York City damage. "The next thing you know, the Pentagon's been hit. What's next?"

Paula Zurga, a Kansas City health care consultant trying to get to Los Angeles, said about 30 people were checking in at the American Airlines ticket counter at KCI when an airline employee said all computers systems had been shut down.

"I couldn't believe this actually happened," Zurga said. "I was concerned about people in the towers. I'm still in shock. When the second one hit, we knew it must be terrorism."

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