JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Missouri officials urged calm Tuesday in the wake of apparent terrorist attacks in New York and Washington and said state business will proceed as normal.
Gov. Bob Holden placed the Missouri State Highway Patrol, National Guard and Capitol Police on heightened alert, but state buildings will remain open.
The Missouri General Assembly, which is convened in a special session, will continue its work this week.
House Speaker Jim Kreider, D-Nixa, urged his colleagues to pray for the victims of the attacks, but to remain strong and focused on the task at hand.
"We take these events very seriously and will make every attempt to heighten security to ensure the safety of our families and employees," Kreider said. "However, the great strength and undying spirit of our democracy must not waver in times of crisis. As such, the business of the people of Missouri will move forward today."
Unless there is an imminent threat, state Rep. Pat Naeger, R-Perryville, said state government needs to stay open.
"This is a time when people look to their government," Naeger said. "Government has to be strong, resilient and ready to meet the needs of citizens."
No facilities at risk
During a brief joint session of the General Assembly, Holden said he had been assured that no state facilities were at risk, but that security would be increased around the state as a precaution.
"This is certainly not the first, nor will it be the last, time our democracy comes under siege," Holden said. "But Americans are a strong and courageous people, and I am confident we will work through this crisis as we have so many others -- united in support of each other and our resolve to see that democracy triumphs. God bless America and Americans everywhere."
House hearings on the three issues being considered in the special session went ahead as scheduled Tuesday. A meeting of the Interim Senate Committee on Public Employee Collective Bargaining, an issue not before the special session, was canceled.
Despite the governor's assurances that state workers would be safe, Senate President Pro Tem Peter Kinder, R-Cape Girardeau, sent most Senate employees home Tuesday morning.
"I can't ensure their safety here," Kinder said, adding that the workers would be back on the job today.
Although the full Senate, which was not scheduled to meet Tuesday, will meet as planned today, Kinder said he wasn't certain continuing the special session was a good idea.
"I am puzzled by the governor's statement that we have assurances there are no threats to any state buildings," Kinder said. "I don't know how we can have that assurance."
Little work done
In a joint statement, Kinder and other Senate leaders called Tuesday's events "a warlike attack that is worse than Pearl Harbor."
While the Capitol remained open, little work was getting done. Most people spent the day gathered around televisions watching news coverage of the events as they unfolded and the aftermath.
Watching television in his office, state Rep. Mark Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, said the scene was all too familiar.
"I remember sitting here in this same chair a few years ago when we got word of the Oklahoma City bombing," Richardson said. "This is a tragic deja vu for me."
Richardson said the General Assembly should continue with its business despite the tragedy.
"I don't think we can allow these terrorist actions to paralyze our country," Richardson said. "We have got to go on with our lives to the extent that if we cancel the business of the people, we are adding to the goals of these terrorists."
State Rep. Phillip Britt, D-Kennett, agreed.
"What the terrorists want to do is shut down our government," Britt said. "We need to show them we are strong enough to continue. We need to do it in a somber and reflective manner, but we need to continue."