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Higher levels of security accepted now as the 'new normal'

September 9, 2011
Brad Bauer (bbauer@mariettatimes.com) , The Marietta Times

Ten years ago, local police wouldn't typically get a phone call about a couple of men canoing along the Ohio River or people in boats that were anchored near a dam or bridge pier.

Those reports are now the norm. And they've all been made as recently as last month in the area.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on the U.S., concerns over possible future attacks have led to heightened security at everything from airports to waterways, chemical plants and major sporting events.

What's "normal" in the U.S. has shifted in the decade since 9/11 in those areas and beyond.

From removing shoes at the airport to hearing on the news what the latest terror alert level is, there are things that have only become a part of day-to-day life since the attacks.

Jim Lindsey, 68, of Caldwell, said he hasn't let the changes in security affect him.

"I'm a Vietnam veteran and I spent a few years as a police officer, maybe that makes it easier for me," he said. "But you just adapt and know that there's a reason for it."

One of the biggest changes is an increased vigilance by citizens.

Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks said a caller was recently concerned after spotting two men out on the water canoing in the middle of the week and near an area chemical plant.

It turned out the men were college students who were simply traveling the river.

"I don't think people are necessarily nervous - just vigilant -which is what we want," Mincks said. "Homeland security has a saying: 'See something, say something.' I would always encourage someone to report anything suspicious. Even if it's just a strange vehicle in a neighborhood. That may not be terror-related but it may help solve a burglary."

Former Marietta resident Hobie Burgnon, 57, currently of Grand Rapids, Mich., flew into the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Airport on Friday to visit family and friends this weekend. He said since 9-11 he notices people and pays attention to things a little more closely, especially when traveling.

"I think we all do," Burgnon said. "We should all be more observant and pay attention to people and how they act around us."

Airports, major sporting events and concerts are the places most people say they have noticed security enhancements since 9/11.

After Burgnon's arrival Friday, the departing flight had six passengers. The airport had as many TSA agents working the security checkpoint as passengers for the flight.

Airport manager Terry Moore said TSA regulations continue to evolve and that each of the agents has a specific role.

"It wouldn't matter if there was one passenger or 100, they each are performing a specific job and that's how many people are required," he said.

The airport leases space to the TSA, which handles the bulk of the airport security. Moore said he's glad to have them there.

"I'm like most Americans and think what an inconvenience it is to pull out my toiletries, take off my shoes and stand in line," he said. "But if you step back and think, there is a bigger picture."

Moore said the attacks of 9/11 serve as a constant reminder of how important security is at the airport.

"I don't really see someone taking one of our (smaller aircraft) but I could imagine someone trying to get though our security, going to Cleveland and attempting something there," he said. "Once you get though our security, you're in the system and there are no more checks at other airports. That's why security is so important here and at every other airport."

Marjorie Becker, 67, of Marietta, said she would notify police if she ever encountered something out of the ordinary.

Becker said she was visiting friends in Maine at the time of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. Since then, she said leaving home has become uncomfortable and not just because of longer waits at airports or security pat-downs.

"I remember coming home (from the trip to Maine) and traffic was just horrible and I was never so happy to just get home," she said "Since then I just don't feel safe being away."

Becker said she does get some comfort knowing a tremendous amount of effort has been spent improving airport security and on anti-terrorism and disaster training for first responders. She said she was impressed with a massive June 15 training near Newport.

"I think that's something a lot of people noticed," she said.

With a command post set up at Willow Island Locks and Dam near Newport, more than 400 individuals from local, state and federal agencies conducted a series of drills in June aimed at identifying possible terrorist targets and improving preparedness.

The drills, directed by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration, covered nearly 5,000 square miles in Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky. Utilized in the drills were several Ohio National Guard Blackhawk helicopters, watercraft from Ohio, West Virginia and the U.S. Coast Guard and several state and federal vehicles.

Mincks said during the missions local police were shown the potential targets along the river.

"Our power plants, chemical plants and the river and dams are all critical to more than just the local economy," Mincks said.

The 65 million tons of cargo shipped to, from and within the state of Ohio along the Ohio River each year has an estimated value of $5.5 billion, according to the Waterways Council, a national public policy organization that advocates for a modern and well-maintained river system.

Marietta resident Hannah Lang was 5 at the time of the September 2001 attacks.

"I remember my mom and how she couldn't believe what was happening," she said.

Lang said fear of another attack makes her nervous when she goes to larger cities or major public events.

"There's just more people and more cultures and I get uncomfortable sometimes," she said. "You think about what happened and wonder if it could happen again."

 
 

 

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