The Daily Tar Heel

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Sunday September 26th

N.C. Leaders Urge Normalcy; State Ready to Send Aid

Despite airport closings and military base lockdowns, Gov. Mike Easley asked N.C. residents to stay calm

Airports statewide closed their gates -- leaving travelers stranded -- at the order of the federal government.

Military bases went on increased alert, with armed guards standing at entrance roads to monitor traffic in and out of each base.

Gov. Mike Easley put the state's law enforcement agencies and National Guard on alert.

But it was business as usual in most parts of the state, including at the N.C. General Assembly, where legislators in both houses met Tuesday afternoon -- sticking to their prepared agenda. Although the session was not canceled, N.C. government officials did address how the terrorist attack affects the state.

State of Support

Easley and other state officials held a press conference early Tuesday afternoon, at which the governor assured citizens that state officials are taking precautions against terrorism, while emphasizing that there was no credible threat to the state.

"I ask all North Carolinians to help by remaining calm and donating blood for victims of this tragedy," he said. "It's the most important thing we can do at this time."

Easley said the state's emergency response team, which was notified of the attacks along with the National Guard at 10:42 a.m., is reacting with measures that are similar to preparations taken for a hurricane. Additional precautions taken Tuesday included a C-130 cargo plane, which was on standby all day in case there was a need to transport National Guard troops or equipment.

State Attorney General Roy Cooper said the State Bureau of Investigation is in contact with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and N.C. officials are co-operating with local and federal agencies to prepare for a possible emergency.

Easley said North Carolina is this year's lead coordinator of the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, an association of 48 states and two territories that agree to assist each other in times of emergency.

"If the state of New York has a need, they pass that to us, and we disseminate that need to the other 47 members of the compact," he said.

"We've had no request for assistance from neighboring states," said Bryan Beatty, secretary of the state's department of crime control and public safety.

As of Tuesday the state of New York is requesting only units of blood.

Although the N.C. House and Senate were in session Tuesday, legislators took time to remember the victims.

Senate Chaplain Mike Morris opened the session by offering a prayer for the victims and reading a chapter of Psalms.

"I can tell you the General Assembly is in a very somber mood," Easley said.

Nuclear Lock-Down

At Carolina Power & Light Co.'s Shearon Harris Nuclear Power Plant in New Hill, N.C., officials are taking extra precautions, CP&L spokesman Aaron Perlut confirmed Tuesday.

"Obviously we're very concerned about this morning's events," Perlut said. "Security at the facility is our chief priority. We maintain a 24-hour security at our nuclear plant and other plants.

"Due to this morning's apparent terrorist attacks, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has asked all us nuclear facilities to go to a heightened level of security."

Perlut said CP&L is analyzing their options before they formulate an extended plan.

"This is something we have been working very closely with the NRC and other federal authorities to raise our level of security and heighten our security measures," he said.

Basic Protection

Following the attacks, state military bases also were placed on the highest alert possible.

Fayetteville's Fort Bragg, which is normally open to the public, was placed on lock-down Tuesday morning.

Concrete slabs were placed in the roads to prevent unauthorized personnel from entering, and all personnel were ordered to report to their places of duty.

Grounded

For the first time in history, the Federal Aviation Administration banned civilian air travel nationwide Tuesday morning.

Raleigh-Durham International Airport officials said the airport will not re-open before noon today but added that it could easily be longer before they receive FAA clearance.

At Charlotte Douglas International Airport, traffic became a problem as people began to leave the facility.

Beatty said the State Highway Patrol and the Department of Motor Vehicles are monitoring the problem.

"There is no request to limit travel," he said.

Although he did not comment on why, Beatty added that vehicles carrying hazardous material were prohibited Tuesday from crossing the Virginia border, explaining that North Carolina had no problem with the trucks remaining in the state.

Closer to Home

Another reaction to the terrorist attack was a bomb threat called into the Cumberland County Court House. "There are misguided people who will take advantage of this situation to call in bomb threats," Easley said, referring to the threat, which later proved false.

Easley encouraged the state's citizens to remain calm in this time of uncertainty. He said, "Most everyone at a time like this feels a bit less secure than we did this morning."

The State & National Editor can be reached at stntdesk@unc.edu.

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