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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Top Stories

Tuesday, September 11, 2001

Commissioners seek to lower RCDC bid costs

Staff Writer

PECOS, Tues., Sept. 11, 2001 -- A request for proposal for Martinez Field Lighting Project  and bid packages for the Reeves County Detention Center-3 were  approved during the regular Reeves County Commissioners Court Meeting,  which began Monday morning and continued throughout the  afternoon. But commissioners were unable to award a second contract for  the RCDC project, after it came in well over the projected cost.

During the afternoon portion of the meeting, commissioners approved a lighting proposal for the Martinez Field, even though that cost came in about $10,000 over projections.

"We bid the project out and it came in at $42,300, we were expecting a price of about $32,000," said Reeves County Judge Jimmy B. Galindo. "The bid that was proposed included things that we will be doing ourselves."

Galindo said that the county would be providing about $10,000 of the project.

"You can re-bid or negotiate it down if the vendor agrees, or reject the bid altogether," said county auditor Lynn Owens.

Galindo told the court that he knew the vendor would accept the bid at $32,000 allowing the county to provide the other $10,000 of services.

"He was the sole bidder and if agrees to the reduction, you can award it to him and negotiate," said Owens.

Galindo said that the school had also committed to providing $15,000 towards the project. "That will help tremendously," he said.

"The gentlemen in my office will help install the system," said Galindo, adding that this project as a whole would be a whole lot more if other services had not been provided in helping out.

"Our savings is about $30-$40,000, because Texas-New Mexico Power Company removed the poles and saved us another $10,000," said Galindo.

The bid was awarded to Tech Line Sports Lighting for $32,000.

"The poles we'll buy ourselves and do the pre-wiring, and all this will save us $10,000," he said. "I think we already have the bulbs," he said.

"Yes, sir we do," said Ricky Herrera, county employee. "When we did the Little League project we ordered lamps for the Martinez Field." Herrera and county employee Randy Baeza helped adjust the new lighting for Chano Prieto Field earlier this year.

Herrera said that they had found a vendor that sold the items cheaper. "It was a lot cheaper through that supplier, so we decided to go ahead and purchase them for this next project," he said.

The group agreed to award bids for site utilities and a water tank for the RCDC-3 project, but to re-advertise for site preparations.

"The way it was advertised, it included everything and it came in over $700,000 over the budget," said Galindo.

Galindo said that he suggested that he and other commissioners meet with Frank Spencer and discuss all the extras that were put in that put the cost site over $700,000.

"I think we need to re-advertise on design building and I think we can come in under budget, but we'll pay twice for the design," said Galindo. "There were some that didn't bid because of the elaborate design," he said.

Galindo told the court that he and at least one of the commissioners needed to meet with Spencer or ask him to come before the court to discuss the issue.

"We know how much it should be, because we just went through this," said Galindo, meaning the RCDC-2 project that was just completed recently and added 1,000 beds to the facility.

Galindo suggested making the award and allowing him to negotiate.

"This would be contingent upon successful negotiation of prices," said Galindo.

Commissioners approved a contract between Reeves County and Texas Tech Health Sciences Center for autopsies. "We entered into contract with them after the first of the year."

Owens said that in previous years, the county had utilized the services in Lubbock. "But they are no longer providing that service," he said.

"This is a $1,000 per autopsy, a little less than what we have been paying," said Owens. "They run up as high as $1,500, they're very expensive," he said.

The group also approved contracts for juvenile detention services with the Ector County Youth Center and Garza County Regional Juvenile Center.

"We're currently using Garza County for substance abuse," said Owens. "And Mrs. Moore tries to get state funds to reimburse us," he said.

Owens said that there is currently one referral from Reeves County in Garza County and the state is reimbursing the county. "We have one detainee there for substance abuse, but it's through state funds," he said.

Property bids were accepted as presented. Bids for property located at 217 N. Cedar was approved in the amount of $6,250 to Hugh Box; 40 acres tract, in the amount of $1,400 by Alfredo Sanchez and another 60 acres for $2,200 were accepted along with a building in downtown Pecos, currently known as Buster's Barn was approved for $1,350 a bid from Aida Hernandez.

Terrorists destroy World Trade Center

Death toll could reach 10,000-50,000

AP National Writer

NEW YORK - In one of the most horrifying attacks ever against  the United States, terrorists crashed two airliners into the World Trade  Center in a deadly series of blows Tuesday that brought down the twin  110-story towers. A plane also slammed into the Pentagon as the government  itself came under attack.

Thousands could be dead or injured, a high-ranking New York City police official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Authorities had been trying to evacuate those who work in the twin towers when the glass-and-steel skyscrapers came down in a thunderous roar within about 90 minutes after the crashes, which took place minutes apart around 9 a.m. But many people were thought to have been trapped. About 50,000 people work at the Trade Center and tens of thousands of others visit each day.

American Airlines initially said the Trade Center was hit by two of its planes, both hijacked, carrying a total of 156 people. But the airline later said that was unconfirmed. Two United airliners with a total of 110 aboard also crashed - one outside Pittsburgh, the other in a location not immediately identified. Altogether, the planes had 266 people aboard.

"This is perhaps the most audacious terrorist attack that's ever taken place in the world," said Chris Yates, an aviation expert at Jane's Transport in London. "It takes a logistics operation from the terror group involved that is second to none. Only a very small handful of terror groups is on that list. ... I would name at the top of the list Osama bin Laden."

President Bush ordered a full-scale investigation to "hunt down the folks who committed this act."

Within the hour, the Pentagon took a direct, devastating hit from a plane. The fiery crash collapsed one side of the five-sided structure.

The White House, the Pentagon and the Capitol were evacuated along with other federal buildings in Washington and New York.

Authorities in Washington immediately called out troops, including an infantry regiment. The Situation Room at the White House was in full operation. Authorities went on alert from coast to coast, the U.S. and Canadian borders were sealed, all air traffic across the country was halted, and security was tightened at strategic installations.

"This is the second Pearl Harbor. I don't think that I overstate it," said Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb.

In June, a U.S. judge had set this Wednesday as the sentencing date for a bin Laden associate for his role in the 1998 bombing of a U.S. embassy in Tanzania that killed 213 people. The sentencing had been set for the federal courthouse near the World Trade Center. No one from the U.S. attorney's office could be reached Tuesday to comment on whether the sentencing was still on.

Afghanistan's hardline Taliban rulers condemned the attacks and rejected suggestions that bin Laden was behind them, saying he does not have the means to carry out such well-orchestrated attacks. Bin Laden has been given asylum in Afghanistan.

Abdel-Bari Atwan, editor of the Al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper, said he received a warning from Islamic fundamentalists close to bin Laden, but did not take the threat seriously. "They said it would be a huge and unprecedented attack but they did not specify," Atwan said in a telephone interview in London.

In the West Bank city of Nablus, thousands of Palestinians celebrated the attacks, chanting "God is Great" and handing out candy.

American Airlines initially identified the planes that crashed into the Trade Center as Flight 11, a Los Angeles-bound jet hijacked after takeoff from Boston with 92 people aboard, and Flight 77, which was seized while carrying 64 people from Washington to Los Angeles.

In Pennsylvania, United Airlines Flight 93, a Boeing 757 en route from Newark, N.J., to San Francisco, crashed about 80 miles southeast of Pittsburgh with 45 people aboard. United said another of its planes, Flight 175, a Boeing 767 bound from Boston to Los Angeles with 65 people on board, also crashed, but it did not say where. The fate of those aboard the two planes was not immediately known.

United's pilots union said United Flight 175 crashed into the Trade Center. But the airline had no immediate comment.

An emergency dispatcher in Westmoreland County, Pa., received a cell phone call at 9:58 a.m. from a man who said he was a passenger locked in the bathroom of United Flight 93, said dispatch supervisor Glenn Cramer.

"We are being hijacked, we are being hijacked!" Cramer quoted the man as saying. The man told dispatchers the plane "was going down. He heard some sort of explosion and saw white smoke coming from the plane and we lost contact with him," Cramer said.

Evacuations were ordered at the United Nations in New York and at the Sears Tower in Chicago. Los Angeles mobilized its anti-terrorism division, and security was intensified around the naval installations in Hampton Roads, Va. Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., was evacuated.

At the World Trade Center, "everyone was screaming, crying, running, cops, people, firefighters, everyone," said Mike Smith, a fire marshal. "It's like a war zone."

Jennifer Brickhouse, 34, from Union, N.J., who was going up the escalator into the World Trade Center when she "heard this big boom."

"All this stuff started falling and all this smoke was coming through. People were screaming, falling, and jumping out of the windows," from high in the sky, she said.

"I just saw the building I work in come down," said businessman Gabriel Ioan, shaking in shock outside City Hall, a cloud of smoke and ash from the World Trade Center behind him.

Nearby a crowd mobbed a man on a pay phone, screaming at him to get off the phone so that they could call relatives. Dust and dirt flew everywhere. Ash was 2 to 3 inches deep in places. People wandered dazed and terrified.

The planes blasted fiery, gaping holes in the upper floors of the twin towers. About an hour later, the southern tower collapsed with a roar and a huge cloud of smoke; the other tower fell about a half-hour after that, covering lower Manhattan in heaps of gray rubble and broken glass. Firefighters trapped in the rubble radioed for help.

"I have a sense it's a horrendous number of lives lost," Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said. "Right now we have to focus on saving as many lives as possible."

The death toll on the crashed planes alone could surpass that of the Oklahoma City bombing on April 19, 1995, which claimed 168 lives in what was the deadliest act of terrorism on U.S. soil.

"Today we've had a national tragedy," Bush said in Sarasota, Fla. "Two airplanes have crashed into the World Trade Center in an apparent terrorist attack on our country." He said he would be returning immediately to Washington.

The crashes at the World Trade Center happened minutes apart, beginning just before 9 a.m.

Heavy black smoke billowed into the sky above one of New York City's most famous landmarks, and debris rained down on the street, one of the city's busiest work areas. When the second plane hit, a fireball of flame and smoke erupted, leaving a huge hole in the glass and steel tower.

John Axisa, who was getting off a commuter train to the World Trade Center, said he saw "bodies falling out" of the building. He said he ran outside, and watched people jump out of the first building. Then there was a second explosion, and he felt heat on the back of neck.

WCBS-TV, citing an FBI agent, said five or six people jumped out of the windows. Witnesses on the street screamed every time another person leaped.

People ran down the stairs in panic and fled the building. Thousands of pieces of what appeared to be office paper drifted over Brooklyn, about three miles away.

Several subway lines were immediately shut down. Trading on Wall Street was suspended. New York's mayoral primary election Tuesday was postponed. All bridges and tunnels into Manhattan were closed.

David Reck was handing out literature for a candidate for public advocate a few blocks away when he saw a jet come in "very low, and then it made a slight twist and dove into the building."

Terrorist bombers struck the World Trade Center in February 1993, killing six people and injuring more than 1,000 others.

"It's just sick. It just shows how vulnerable we really are," Keith Meyers, 39, said in Columbus, Ohio. "It kind of makes you want to go home and spend time with your family. It puts everything in perspective," Meyers said. He said he called to check in with his wife. They have two young children.

In New York, "we heard a large boom and then we saw all this debris just falling," said Harriet Grimm, who was inside a bookstore on the World Trade Center's first floor when the first explosion rocked the building.

"The plane was coming in low and ... it looked like it hit at a slight angle," said Sean Murtagh, a CNN vice president, the network reported.

In 1945, an Army Air Corps B-25, a twin-engine bomber, crashed into the 79th floor of the Empire State Building in dense fog.

In Florida, Bush was reading to children in a classroom at 9:05 a.m. when his chief of staff, Andrew Card, whispered into his ear. The president briefly turned somber before he resumed reading. He addressed the tragedy about a half-hour later.

Terrorists attacks also halt Earhart event, RCDC tour

Staff Writer

PECOS, Tues., Sept. 11, 2001 -- Today's terrorist jet attacks on the World Trade Center in New York  and at the Pentagon outside Washington, D.C. have created ramifications  in Pecos as well as across the nation, with a historic flight recreation  being cancelled today along with tours of the Reeves County Detention  Center scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday.

The re-creation of Amelia Earhart's 1928 round trip flight across the United States by a California woman was put on hold this morning, after the Federal Aviation Administration cancelled all air travel throughout the country.

Dr. Carlene Mendieta was scheduled to fly from Hobbs, N.M., to Pecos today while following Earhart's path in a duplicate of her 1928 airplane. She was scheduled to leave Hobbs around 9 a.m. this morning and arrive in Pecos about an hour later, but Pecos Municipal Airport Manager Isabel Blanchard said, "The flight is postponed, all aircraft are grounded by order of the FAA."

Blanchard said that the local airport had received a report that all aircraft would be grounded except military, law enforcement and Medi Vac aircraft on a one-to-one basis.

"It's open-ended until further notice," said Blanchard. "Dr. Carlene Mendieta who is re-creating Earhart's flight is stuck in Hobbs, N.M.".

Assuming the air spaces are opened up by Wednesday, Blanchard said they are expecting Mendieta in Pecos at 8:45 a.m. and she will have to be back at the airport at 1:30 p.m.

"Those are just tentative planes, assuming that the air spaces are opened up," said Blanchard. "It's unbelievable what has happened and it's just so sad.

Town of Pecos City Pecos Mayor Ray Ortega was among those local officials scheduled to meet Mendieta at the airport this morning.

"We're flying our flags at half-mast," said Ortega. "This is a nightmare that has become a reality."

"This is a tragedy of magnificent proportions," he added. "This is a very somber day," he said, adding that they are watching the tragic events via the television.

"It's horrifying," he said.

"Our hearts and prayers go out to the families," he said. "This might be an act of war."

Ortega said that he suspected these would be terrorists with a lot of resources. "It's just to much to be just one or two individuals involved," he said.

If the airspace is cleared plans to meet Dr. Carlene Mendieta will be held tomorrow. "That's only if the air space is cleared," he said.

The grand opening and dedication ceremonies planned for the Reeves County Detention Center II addition were canceled. A dedication ceremony was scheduled for Wednesday with local dignitaries, head of law enforcement agencies, and U.S. Bureau of Prison officials from both Texas and Washington, D.C. were invited to a dedication ceremony and Open House.

"We'll also be canceling the Open House scheduled for the general public on Thursday," said RCDC Warden Rudy Franco.

Franco said that this tragedy took precedent over everything else. "It's just unbelievable and the staff here at RCDC is very concerned over the situation," he said.

Since the air space was closed individuals from Dallas and Washington would be unable to attend the ceremony.

"We just can't believe it and our hearts go out to all those families," said Franco.

Franco said he had spoken to his brother, Robert Franco, a BOP employee in Washington, D.C. "I talked to him this morning and he said everything is chaos out there," said Franco. He added that his brother and his family are doing fine.

"We're postponing both ceremonies until further notice," said Franco. "Our thoughts and prayers are with those families who are enduring this horrific situation."

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of those who lost loved ones in this tragedy," said Reeves County Judge Jimmy B. Galindo, whose brother, Joe Galindo, lives less than five miles from the Pentagon.

"I talked to him earlier and he and his family are doing fine," said Galindo. "He had to make his way across town to get his son from school and my sister-in-law, also a former Pecos resident, Nora, had to walk home from her job."

"Their home is about three miles from the Pentagon," said Galindo. "We're very shocked that this happened and we are saddened by the situation."

Trials cancelled, federal offices shut down

Staff Writer

PECOS, Tues., Sept. 11, 2001 -- Federal District Judge Royal Furgeson huddled with  attorneys this morning to decide whether to continue Pecos court cases in  light of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington D.C. Jurors  were selected Monday to hear testimony Wednesday in a drug case  against Guadalupe Sanchez-Galindo.

Because the FAA shut down all air traffic, co-defendants who were to testify against Sanchez cannot be transported here, court sources said.

Judge Furgeson postponed the jury trial but said he would go ahead with sentencing for those defendants already in Pecos. Two defendants attired in orange jail uniforms waited in the courtroom with their attorneys while Judge Furgeson conferred with other attorneys who called in. He postponed sentencing for those not already present.

In a nearby witness room at the Lucius D. Bunton III courthouse, staff and attorneys monitored a big-screen television to keep abreast of events surrounding the tragic events of the morning.

Deputy U.S. Marshal Billy Johnson and his staff were on heightened alert, along with court security officers and uniformed guards who patrol the building's perimeter.

Becky Greenup, Judge Furgeson's secretary, said at mid-morning that the San Antonio federal building was officially closed and others may be closed as well.

U.S. Magistrate Durwood Edwards was scheduled to begin arraignment and detention hearings at 1:30 p.m. Those had not been canceled, said Michael Benevides in the district clerk's office.

At noon today Johnson said that many federal buildings across the nation were closed or closing. At press time the federal courthouses in San Antonio, Austin, El Paso, Houston and Midland were closed and Johnson said he expected Pecos to be closed as well.

In Marfa, U.S. Border Patrol agent Fred Hollenbeck said agents are on heightened alert at the checkpoints and other crossings between the United States and Mexico, including the Presidio-Ojinaga border checkpoint.

Pentagon hit, White House is evacuated

Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - The Pentagon took a direct, devastating hit from  an aircraft and the enduring symbols of American power were  evacuated Tuesday as an apparent terrorist attack quickly spread fear and  chaos in the nation's capital.

President Bush, outside Washington at the time of the attack, said the nation's military had been placed on "high-alert status."

Flown from Florida to the safety of a military base in Louisiana, he said, "We will do what it takes, whatever's necessary to secure America and Americans."

The nerve center of the nation's military burst into flames and a portion of one side of the five-sided structure collapsed when the plane struck in midmorning. Secondary explosions were reported in the aftermath of the attack and great billows of smoke drifted skyward toward the Potomac River and the city beyond.

Glenn Flood, a Pentagon spokesman, said there were "extensive casualties and an unknown number of fatalities. "We don't know the extent of the injuries," he said.

At midday, one hospital in suburban Virginia reported 26 victims had been brought from the Pentagon for treatment. Seven were taken to a Washington hospital, in critical condition with burns.

"The whole building shook" with the impact, said Terry Yonkers, an Air Force civilian employee at work inside the Pentagon at the time of the attack. "There was screaming and pandemonium," he said, but the evacuation ordered shortly afterward was carried out smoothly.

"Terrorism against our nation will not stand," Bush vowed on a morning when not only Washington was struck, but the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York were hit by planes and later collapsed.

Vice President Dick Cheney was in Washington and he and first lady Laura Bush were taken to an undisclosed secure location, officials said. Congressional leaders were hustled away from the Capitol to safety.

"The leadership of the Defense Department is OK. The secretary (Donald H. Rumsfeld) is OK," Flood told reporters.

Authorities immediately began deploying troops, including a regiment of light infantry, in response to an attack for which they said there had been no advance warning.

The departments of Justice, State, Treasury and Defense and the Central Intelligence Agency were evacuated - an estimated 20,000 at the Pentagon alone. Agents with automatic weapons patrolled the White House grounds.

And the FAA ordered the entire nationwide air traffic system shut down for the first time in history.

There was no attempt to minimize the impact.

"This is the second Pearl Harbor. I don't think that I overstate it," said Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., referring to the attack 60 years ago that surprised the nation's intelligence apparatus and propelled the country into World War II.

With Bush away from the capital, his advisers were preparing a list of options, including closing the nation's borders, according to a senior U.S. official.

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said it was premature to discuss military options because investigators were still trying to determine who was responsible for the attacks.

Away from the Pentagon, unexplained explosions were reported in the vicinity of the State Department and the Capitol.

A torrent of people rushed from their office buildings throughout the nation's capital, eager to leave a city under siege.

The cell phone networks were overloaded, clusters of people sprayed on the sidewalks and at least one suburban school district announced plans to close early.

The Pentagon was hit a short while after the World Trade Center was struck. a plane, described by witnesses as a jetliner, made impact in the portion of the building on side opposite from where Rumsfeld's office are located.

Paul Begala, a Democratic consultant, said he witnessed an explosion near the Pentagon, saying it sent a huge, orange fireball skyward.

AP reporter Dave Winslow also saw the crash. He said, "I saw the tail of a large airliner. ... It plowed right into the Pentagon."

Gen. Richard Myers, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that prior to the crash into the Pentagon, military officials had been notified that another hijacked plane had been heading from the New York area to Washington. He said he assumed that hijacked plane was the one that hit the Pentagon, though he couldn't be sure.

One of two planes that crashed into the World Trade Center was hijacked after takeoff from Boston and headed to Los Angeles with 92 aboard, American Airlines disclosed.

The second plane may have flown out of Newark, N.J., the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Asked if there was any possibility the crashes were anything other than deliberate, a government official said it appeared not to be an accident.

Churches holding Vigils in response to attacks

PECOS, Tues., Sept. 11, 2001 -- St. Catherine and Santa Rosa Catholic Churches are hosting a  12-hour Holy Hour Vigil tomorrow at both churches in response to  the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Anyone wishing to join the vigil is invited. The vigil will begin at 6 a.m. to 12 noon at St. Catherine's, located on Plum and Walthall Streets.

The vigil will pick up again at 12 noon to 6 p.m., at Santa Rosa, located on Fourth Street.

OC will beginning GED prep classes in Pecos

PECOS, Tues., Sept. 11, 2001 -- Odessa College in cooperation with the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD is offering Adult Basic Education and GED preparation classes at Lamar Alternative Education Center.

Classes will be offered on Mondays and Wednesdays from 6-8:30 p.m., beginning Sept. 17.

Classes are free of charge. If you are 18 or older, officially withdrawn from public school, and wish to enroll in the classes, contact David Reyes at 445-1146 or Odessa College at 915-332-9477 for more information.

An Equal Opportunity College, OC does not discriminate on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin, religion, disability or age.

Saenz, Hubbs added to OC Foundation Board

Staff Writer

PECOS, Tues., Sept. 11, 2001 -- Odessa College welcomed the first Odessa College Foundation  Board members to the college elected outside of Ector County Monday  at the Pecos Technical Training Center.

OC President Vance Gipson and Linda Ward, executive director of the OC Foundation, along with Board director Louis Rochester welcomed Pecos businessmen Bill Hubbs and Oscar Saenz to the Board.

Hubbs and Saenz will now make the 22nd and 23rd Board director for the Foundation that works together to better the college and raise money for scholarships.

"They are the first two directors of the Foundation to be outside of Ector County," Gipson said.

Ward explained the Foundation is separate from the college itself and is made up entirely of Odessa businessmen with now the exception of Hubbs and Saenz.

Gipson and Ward both exclaimed that they have been impressed with the success of the OC Pecos campus and felt that it was time to have someone that could represent Pecos.

"They (Hubbs and Saenz) are like ambassadors to the college," Ward said. "They are helping to promote higher education in the community."

Ward said that anyone who would like to see more courses offered, what programs are needed or have any ideas how to better OC's service to the community would be able to speak with the two men and they would in turn inform the Foundation.

"They're our eyes and ears of Pecos," she said.

Rochester, who is one of the original members of the Foundation, is also the man who built the shopping center the school is located in on South Eddy Street.

Rochester said that he is proud that the college has been able to move into the space and expand opportunities for people in Pecos.

"I think it's a magnificent opportunity for the school," he said.

The main function of the Foundation, according to Ward, is to raise money for scholarships that will be available to the students that do not qualify for government assistance or financial aide.

Gipson said that the Foundation is just trying to help more people afford a higher education.

"What we're trying to do with the Foundation is fill in the gaps," he said.

Ward informed Hubbs and Saenz that close to 300 scholarships were given to students last year.

She said that Hubbs and Saenz would help collect money that would be designated for Pecos students.

"This money that we're collecting will be dedicated to students of Pecos," she said.

Gipson said that Hubbs and Saenz were unanimously approved by the Foundation and the two were chosen because Hubbs is a pioneer of the community and Saenz is active in developing the community.

"We're very pleased with their addition to the Board," he said.

Gipson said that OC is happy to see the support the community of Pecos is showing and hopes that having the two men would help increase the education opportunities beyond high school in Pecos.

"We have been extremely pleased of the support shown in Pecos," he said. "This is the next viable step to expanding the education in Pecos."

Bush promises full force of U.S. will find terrorists

Associated Press Writer

BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. - As chaos unhinged New  York and Washington, President Bush commanded the full force of  the United States government to "hunt down and to find" the  terrorists responsible.

"Terrorism against our nation will not stand," he declared Tuesday.

In Florida for a pair of education speeches, the president scrapped his schedule and said, at the first reports of attacks on New York's World Trade Center, that he was hastening back to Washington.

But, with the White House evacuated under threat of attack and his wife hunkered down in an unidentified secure location, the president and Air Force One were rerouted - under escort by military fighter jets - to this Louisiana air base.

In a conference room dotted by portraits of decorated Air Force officers, the commander in chief announced that the U.S. military was on "high-alert status."

"Freedom itself was attacked this morning and I assure you freedom will be defended. Make no mistake. The United States will hunt down and pursue those responsible for these cowardly actions," Bush said.

First lady Laura Bush spoke with her husband by a secure military phone line before he took off from Sarasota, Fla.

Mrs. Bush and a handful of aides were whisked by motorcade from Capitol Hill, where she was to have testified to a Senate committee on education, to a hide-out away from the White House.

There, the sequestered group huddled around a single TV in their hide-out and channel-surfed for the latest news, according to one person in the group.

Mrs. Bush also checked with her twin daughters at college to make sure they were safe.

Trade Center scene called "nightmare"

AP Special Correspondent

NEW YORK - It was the scene of a nightmare: people on fire jumping  in terror from the Trade Towers just before the buildings collapsed.

"Everyone was screaming, crying, running - cops, people, firefighters, everyone," said Mike Smith, a fire marshal from Queens, as he sat by the fountain outside a state courthouse, shortly after the second tower collapsed. "A couple of marshals just picked me up and dragged me down the street. It's like a war zone."

Others compared it to Pearl Harbor as thousands of people poured off the Brooklyn Bridge, fleeing Manhattan covered in gray dust and debris. Many wore respiratory masks, given by the police and fire departments.

Ambulances screamed down every major thoroughfare in Manhattan, depositing casualties at hospitals and returning to get more. Clusters of people, their hands clutched to their heads in horror, stood at boomboxes set up outside stores to listen to the news. Others gathered around cars, their doors open and radios turned up high.

Looking down West Broadway through billowing brown and black smoke, Tower Two tilted across the street. Ash, two inches deep, lined the streets.

Police and firefighters gasped for air as they emerged from the sealed-off area. At least three explosions were heard, perhaps from gas lines. Army Humvees whizzed by on their way downtown.

Workers from Trade Center offices wandered lower Manhattan in a daze, many barely able to believe they were alive.

Kenny Johannemann, a janitor, described seeing a man engulfed in flames at One World Trade Center just after the first explosion. He grabbed the man, put the fire out, and dragged him outside. Then Johannemann heard a second explosion - and saw people jumping from the upper stories of the Twin Towers.

"It was horrendous; I can't describe it," Johannemann said as he stood outside the building.

Donald Burns, 34, was being evacuated from a meeting on the 82nd floor of One World Trade Center, when saw four severely burned people on the stairwell. "I tried to help them but they didn't want anyone to touch them. The fire had melted their skin. Their clothes were tattered," he said.

After the initial blast, Housing Authority worker Barry Jennings, 46, reported to a command center on the 23rd floor of 7 World Trade Center. He was with Michael Hess, the city's corporation counsel, when they felt and heard another explosion. First calling for help, they scrambled downstairs to the lobby, or what was left of it. "I looked around, the lobby was gone. It looked like hell," Jennings said.

Boris Ozersky, 47, computer networks analyst, was on the 70th floor of one of the buildings when he felt something like an explosion rock it. He raced down 70 flights of stairs, and outside, in a mob in front of a nearby hotel. He was trying to calm a panicked women when the building suddenly collapsed.

"I just got blown somewhere, and then it was total darkness. We tried to get away, but I was blown to the ground. And I was trying to help this woman, but I couldn't find her in the darkness," Ozersky said.

After the dust cleared, he found the hysterical woman and took her to a restaurant being used by rescue workers as a triage center.

As most people fled the area, others were drawn to it - desperate for information about friends and relatives who worked there.


PECOS, Tues., Sept. 11, 2001 -- High Mon. 85. Low this morning 67. Forecast for tonight: Partly  cloudy. Lows in the lower 60s. South winds 5 to 10 mph. Wed.: Partly cloudy.  Highs in the lower 90s. South winds 5 to 15 mph. Wed. night:  Partly cloudy.  Lows 60 to 65. Thurs.:  Partly cloudy. Highs in the lower 90s. Fri.:  Partly  cloudy. Lows 60 to 65. Highs around 90.


Lloyd Chappell

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