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Sept. 11 events go on despite heightened alert
By Denise Lavoie, Associated Press, 9/11/2002
BOSTON -- As they hurried to work, shopped in busy downtown stores or took cigarette breaks outside office buildings, people across Massachusetts maintained their normal routines Wednesday under greater police protection and an acute awareness of the terror of one year ago.
Security was tight across the state as Massachusetts joined the rest of the nation in public and private remembrances of the people who died when four planes were hijacked by terrorists and crashed.
At Logan International Airport, where two of the planes originated, heavily armed police teams were added for the week of the attacks anniversary. Officers inspected the trunks of cars entering the central parking garage, and curbside baggage check-in was prohibited.
Additional state police patrols were put in place at the Quabbin Reservoir, which provides drinking water for Boston and its suburbs.
At a Statehouse ceremony honoring the victims of Sept. 11, bomb-sniffing dogs patrolled the streets, and lookouts stood atop surrounding buildings. One of the building's three entrances was closed, and all bags and packages were examined, including those carried by state employees.
On subways, a special team of five police officers -- part of a new security patrol dubbed "Operation Safe Travel" -- were on guard for anything suspicious.
"I think the whole department is out here today," said acting Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority Police Chief William Fleming.
Lori Melchionno, 28, paused with other commuters on the subway for a minute of silence at 8:46 a.m., the time when the first plane slammed into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.
Melchionno didn't consciously alter her daily routine, but she was aware the day was different. "I didn't change my way of doing things," she said, "but then again, I normally don't pray before I go to work."
At Downtown Crossing, a popular retail center in downtown Boston, police officers were stationed in groups of two or three at main intersections and in front of large stores. Additional uniformed officers were also on patrol around potential targets such as financial centers and historic sites.
At the airport, air traffic on Wednesday was expected to be at the lowest levels since last Sept. 11, said Massport spokesman Jose Juves. Only about 15,000 passengers were expected at Logan, about one half of the daily average this week.
In the western Massachusetts town of Amherst, home to the University of Massachusetts, many residents said they weren't overly concerned.
"I don't go around thinking I could be a target, and I don't think many people here do," said Barbara Ford, who volunteers at an information booth on the town common. "Most of us realize you can't live your life being afraid."
The appearance off the East Coast of a massive Russian AN-124, the world's largest military plane, did cause a bit of a stir in the western part of the state.
When the plane, bound for Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, from Newfoundland, crossed into U.S. air space Wednesday morning, the Federal Aviation Administration ordered it diverted to Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee.
It turned out the giant cargo jet had been chartered by the U.S. Defense Department and was ferrying 12 U.S. soldiers and equipment to Fort Bliss.
"We verified everything was on the up-and-up, gave them some gas and sent them on their way," said Gordon Newell, a Westover spokesman.
The state did not curtail or cancel any Sept. 11 public memorial events due to the heightened security alert issued in Washington on Tuesday. And many residents said they did not cancel any activities in their personal lives either.
"It's just another day," said Jack McCarthy, 43, a painter from Quincy. "I think another attack could happen, but not to that extent. I don't think they could pull that off again."
Around-the-clock air patrols, put in place last weekend, continued over Boston and other Northeast cities. The Coast Guard, too, had increased its patrols in anticipation of the anniversary.
The FBI in Boston set up a command post to be staffed 24 hours a day for the remainder of the week. Spokeswoman Gail Marcinkiewicz said a number of agents will be available for immediate response.
Santo Aliano, 62, a mechanical engineer from Revere, said he believes there could be another terrorist attack some time in the future. But he said he felt generally secure.
"We are going to live our lives," he said. "If we let it get to us -- forget about it."