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Background: United States Safety

October 8, 2001 at 12:00 AM EDT


RAY SUAREZ: From a parade in New York to a drive across the Golden Gate Bridge, in some ways life went on as usual around the country today. But in ways both seen and unseen, already heightened security measures were made even stronger. NewsHour correspondents sampled the day in four American cities.

RAY SUAREZ: Security is always tight in the nation’s capital, but it’s even more so since September 11, and tighter still since yesterday’s air strikes. At the White House, extra police are on patrol. Public tours have been suspended indefinitely. White House Spokesman Ari Fleischer.

ARI FLEISCHER: It remains important for Americans to remember that this is a time of war and that people need to keep that in mind. And that’s why security has been beefed up across the country, and why all government agencies are on a heightened state of alert.

RAY SUAREZ: Vice President Dick Cheney would normally have joined President Bush at the swearing-in ceremony for Tom Ridge as Director of Homeland Security this morning, but Cheney has been taken to an undisclosed, secure location away from the White House. Some tourists outside the White House applauded the new security measures.

TOM PAYNE: I feel absolutely safe here. I think it’s never been safer here. You can’t predict what’s going to happen. There’s wackos out in the world, but I think that, you know, there’s plenty of police here and I think that we’ve had our wake-up call.

RAY SUAREZ: Windows on the Capitol Building have been outfitted with a blast-proof coating, and plastic chain link fencing surrounds the grounds. Roads near the State Department are closed to traffic by a two- block security barrier. And at Smithsonian Museums, security guards search now search every bag.

RAY SUAREZ: In Manhattan, the city’s annual Columbus Day Parade was a show of patriotism.

Its theme was to honor America, and that included a tribute to the hundreds of police, firefighters and rescue workers who continued to remove dust and rubble at the World Trade Center site. A heavy police presence lined the 50-block route down Fifth Avenue. Citywide, more than 4,500 National Guard troops have been deployed. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani– who marched along part of the parade route– urged New Yorkers to remain calm.

MAYOR RUDOLPH GIULIANI: We shouldn’t overdo this. I mean the reality is there’s extra security because the country is engaged in a military action. We have extra police officers. We have National Guard. They’re doing all the things they are supposed to do. They keep track of all the intelligence that’s available. And people should calm down, relax, be brave.

RAY SUAREZ: National Guardsmen were stationed at the gates at LaGuardia Airport, and more men in blue were posted at Grand Central Station.

On bridges and roads leading into Manhattan, cars and trucks were stopped and sometimes searched. Passengers in taxis were asked for identification. Almost a month later security remains tight near the site of the attacks. The public was allowed no closer than three blocks from the vast ruins of the World Trade Center complex.

ELIZABETH BRACKETT: In Chicago, Coast Guard utility boats are now patrolling the shoreline, its ports and harbors, 24 hours a day. The Coast Guard is on the highest alert since World War II. And assignments have changed dramatically since last month, says Coast Guard Petty Officer Paul Roszowksi.

PETTY OFFICER PAUL ROSZOWSKI, U.S. Coast Guard: Before September 11, the Coast Guard, we’d be sitting at our stations, sitting at our bases, waiting for the search and rescue call to go out. I mean that’s what we all signed up to do, save lives. Now after September 11, we’re out there doing a 24-hour, seven day a week security zone around many areas especially here in the Great Lakes.

COAST GUARD SPOKESMAN: Temporary security…

ELIZABETH BRACKETT: The Coast Guard won’t reveal the location of the security zones, but city officials have said security has increased at power plants and water filtration plants. All of Chicago’s drinking water and the drinking water of many surrounding communities is taken from Lake Michigan. Boaters are warned to stay out of the new security zones on marine radios.

PETTY OFFICER PAUL ROSZOWSKI: If somebody wanders into a security zone they will be boarded as if it were a normal boarding. We’ll check their credentials and find out why they’re there.

ELIZABETH BRACKETT: The armed Coast Guard crews are also boarding all ships as they come into the Great Lakes through the St. Lawrence Seaway.

PETTY OFFICER PAUL ROSZOWSKI: We’re looking more at crews who is on board, foreign flag vessels, what kind of crew they’re carrying. Make sure they’re carrying the type of cargo that they say they’re carrying.

ELIZABETH BRACKETT: The higher security levels have meant more guardsmen are needed. Twenty-three Coast Guard reservists have been called up to patrol Lake Michigan, 211 for the entire Great Lakes region. Chicago’s surveillance is being coordinated out of the Calumet Harbor Station where staffing has jumped from 15 to 50 since the attacks.

SPENCER MICHELS: In San Francisco today, police and security officers were also officially at “the highest” state of alert– although in this city of recognizable landmarks, there appeared to be little change from before.

Immediately on September 11, there were fears for the Golden Gate Bridge. Officials posted police vehicles at each end, instituted patrols, and shut down the pedestrian walkway. That walkway has recently been reopened and there are no plans to change that status. The road to a Civil War fort under the bridge was open today, although officials closed it yesterday after news of the bombs and missiles. A lone security officer on duty said simply, “the word had come down.”

Security personnel have been added at the Bay Bridge linking San Francisco and Oakland, as well as at other state bridges and highways. And aerial surveillance has been increased. Throughout California, officials beefed up security at reservoirs, closing access roads, canceling tours, and increasing police surveillance. But that surveillance wasn’t always obvious. At the 48-story Trans America Pyramid Building in San Francisco’s financial district, all but one tower entrance is closed.

Tenants in the well-known building admit to being nervous. And BART– the Bay Area’s Rapid Transit system– stepped up its already high state of alert, but wouldn’t disclose details. The tension on the terrorist front didn’t affect San Francisco giant Barry Bonds, who blasted his 73rd home run– a new record– on the last day of the regular baseball season.