Minnesota armed forces not deployed, stand ready for action

David La Vaque

Public relations consultant Gisele McAulisse was at home in Washington, D.C. with her boyfriend Tuesday morning when she heard an explosion and felt the earth shake. She didn’t know it then, but her senses had just endured an aerial attack on the Pentagon.

“It was like a volcano erupted,” she said.

Although McAulisse lives two miles from the national security stronghold, she said her house shook, the smell of burning permeated the air and smoke filled the sky. Because of the earlier bombing of the World Trade Center, she suspected the danger but didn’t know what to do for safety.

But now that these nightmares have become reality, local agencies are on high alert and poised to mobilize even though an immediate statewide threat is not perceived.

An official from the Minnesota National Guard said there are no rules for how to react in a time of tragedy like that on the East Coast.

“There’s no policy for something like this,” said Spc. Anna Lewiki of the National Guard. “The National Guard disaster response team works with various state and federal agencies to ensure we’re at a high level of preparedness.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, the Minnesota National Guard had not been called to assist in New York or Washington D.C.

The Minnesota Air Force Reserve had not been activated Tuesday at press time.

The Minnesota Army Reserve is at a “heightened state of readiness” said Master Sgt. Betsey DePoint with the 88th Regional Support Command. “If we are needed, we will respond.”

The Minnesota office of the FBI has evidence response teams in place to react to situations like those in New York and Washington, D.C..

“Anything like this would result in massive response from the FBI,” said Jay Brunn, a press official for the Minnesota FBI.

Brunn said Minnesota’s FBI is currently responding to phone calls and following up on any leads; and is ready to assist the Washington, D.C. FBI office should the need arise.

The FBI has dispatched full investigative teams to the sites of each airplane crash.

“Our focus is on the injured at the scenes, caring for them and working to prevent any other occurrences. The FBI is coordinating its response with the offices of the federal government,” said Waldo Persteins, an official at the D.C. press office.

These answers gave McAulisse little comfort.

“The streets are filled with people walking out of D.C. They’re upset, crying,” she said. “It’s the only way to get out quickly. They stopped the Metro (subway). People are scared.”

McAulisse said she felt endangered while President George W. Bush was absent from the Capitol.

“I find it disconcerting that the president stays away while we’re stuck here in these cities. There’s a need to present yourself with courage at a time like this,” McAulisse said, calling the president’s actions “pathetic and insufficient.”

Bush spoke to the public from a safe haven near Omaha on Tuesday afternoon, but later returned to Washington.

“I want to reassure the American people that the full resources of the federal government are working to assist local authorities to save lives and to help the victims of these attacks,” he said in a press release.

He promised to “hunt down and punish” those behind the attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

He added, “The resolve of our great nation is being tested. But make no mistake: We will show the world that we will pass this test.”

 

Latasha Webb welcomes comments at [email protected].