State Capitol, Disney World closed; local officials on alert after terrorist bombings
The state Capitol, Walt Disney World, airports, courthouses and public buildings across Florida were shut down and President Bush cut short his trip to Sarasota following the attacks Tuesday on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Gov. Jeb Bush said it was "appropriate" to evacuate the Capitol "given the randomness of the attack and the fact it is a high profile building."
Disney World, one of the world's most popular vacation destinations, closed its theme parks and sent employees home, spokeswoman Rena Callahan said. Universal Studios said it was evaluating security.
President Bush, the governor's brother, was reading to children at Emma Booker Elementary School in Sarasota when an aide told him about reports of the attack.
Before boarding Air Force One, the president vowed to "conduct a full-scale investigation to hunt down and find those folks who caused this act. Terrorism against our nation will not stand."
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement immediately increased the governor's security as well. Local officials in Miami-Dade and Broward counties activated emergency operations centers while state courts were evacuated.
The Kennedy Space Center was under an "enhanced security awareness" since the accident. NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin in Washington was speaking with Kennedy Space Center management and Patrick Air Force Base officials about what type of threat condition to go into here.
"We're taking this very seriously," NASA spokesman Joel Wells said.
Passengers at Orlando International Airport were riveted in the restaurants and bars as they watched the attacks unfold on television.
"They don't have enough hospitals," said Adam Steel, 40, of Long Island, who was waiting to fly back to New York after attending a convention in Orlando.
"It's despicable and horrific," said Ned Grace, 50, of Windermere, waiting for a friend to arrive from Boston. "This is the worst act of terrorism in world history. It's beyond belief."
In Miami, carloads of civilians streamed out of the gate of the U.S. Southern Command, the joint command for all U.S. military activities in Latin America and the Caribbean.
State courts were closed in Miami-Dade and Orange County. Federal marshals in Miami courts received news of the attacks on their radios, and security was immediately heightened.
Guards at doors asked unfamiliar people for identifications, a federal police car raced the wrong way down a one-way street, and extra police cars parked on a street with access to the judges' parking garage.
In Tallahassee, the governor adjourned a meeting of the state Cabinet an hour early Tuesday to review the state's disaster plan.
Representatives from the Department of Community of Affairs, the Department of Transportation, the Florida Highway Patrol, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Florida National Guard and the Department of Agriculture planned to discuss by telephone Florida's disaster plan should any attacks occur in the state.
"We're obviously on a heightened sense of awareness ... and we have to do our best to be on alert," said Jim Loftus, a spokesman for the Department of Community Affairs.
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