As flags across the area dropped to half staff Tuesday, county officials were busy formulating a plan in response to the attacks that struck key landmarks on the East Coast, including the World Trade Center. Shortly after the attacks, the Orange County Emergency Management Service placed the county on a heightened state of alert.
"The first thing was all of the law enforcement agencies were notified to make sure they were aware of the events as they unfolded," said Nick Waters, the county's EMS director. "We're just encouraging people not to panic. This is a pretty traumatic event for the United States, but at this time there is not a credible threat to North Carolina."
Chapel Hill and Carrboro town staffs, heeding the county's advice, held meetings with their individual police departments. Fire and police officials in both towns placed more officers on call and asked those on duty to take special note of suspicious conditions.
"Officers are doing normal assignments obviously with the knowledge of (the incident) and a heightened awareness," said Jane Cousins, spokeswoman for the Chapel Hill police.
The Chapel Hill Fire Department also beefed up its staff as a precautionary measure. "We want to make sure that if something unrelated happens we are staffed up just because that's the atmosphere of the country right now," said Robert Bosworth, deputy fire chief for Chapel Hill Fire Department.
Orange County school systems operated on normal schedules but followed emergency management's warning to stay alert. After-school programs were canceled in both districts.
Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools spokeswoman Kim Hoke said the system was providing counseling and that some Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools sent letters home with students describing the measures schools are taking.
Matthew Sullivan, a crisis counselor with the Chapel Hill Police Department, said the department is another resource for anyone in need of support.
"It's a very tragic day, and that's going to shape how everyone looks at the world, but we have a responsibility to protect the community," he said.
Casey Copp, director of Red Cross blood services in Chapel Hill, said Red Cross staff fielded calls from anxious residents. "We do have mental health workers on staff that we will be contacting of course because we will have people contacting us about their relatives," Copp said.
"Right now we're just taking information. We'll do everything we can to help people."
Chapel Hill Mayor Rosemary Waldorf said giving blood is one way residents can help. "I think that Governor (Mike Easley) was quite right this afternoon when he said the best thing we can do is stay calm and give blood."
The City Editor can be reached at email@example.com.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.