County tries to regain normalcy
By JIM ROSS, ALEX LEARY and BARBARA BEHRENDT
© St. Petersburg Times,
Schools were in session and government offices remained open. Business carried on, more or less.
Life was hardly back to normal Wednesday -- how could it be? -- but Citrus County did the best it could.
The traditional indications of tragedy remained in place: carefully worded business signs, special prayer meetings, flags flying at half-staff, TV and radio reports blaring in restaurants, newspaper boxes whose contents featured huge banner headlines.
Otherwise, the effects of the terrorist attacks could best be viewed by what was happening, or not happening, at the Inverness and Crystal River airports.
Those stations remained closed, as did terminals both large and small nationwide. The federal government didn't lift the flight ban at Wednesday. Instead, it only cleared passengers who had been stranded Tuesday to fly to their original destinations.
"It shut business down. Period," said Gudi Davis of Crystal Aero Group Inc., which operates the local airports.
Businesses reliant on air travel have asked when flights can resume but are not angry, Davis said. "I think everybody understands the severity of this. Everyone is still in shock."
One man in his private plane took off Wednesday morning but was quickly ordered to land.
"He said he didn't know," Davis said. "Or maybe he didn't care. But he was told to land and he did."
At Florida Power, officials maintained heightened security Wednesday, restricting access to those with essential business.
A member of the Citrus County Sheriff's Office SWAT team was stationed at the front gate. Officials monitored news coverage and consulted with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Citrus people continued worrying about their investments. They already knew the World Trade Center attack would halt stock trading. On Wednesday, they continued hearing economists say the attacks might edge the nation closer to recession, a turn of events that could affect the world.
Pessimism prevailed despite the government's best attempt to bolster consumer confidence.
Local financial advisers urged clients to remain calm.
"Knee-jerk reactions are usually the wrong ones," said Paul Dudley of Elite Investment Services in Crystal River.
"Those folks that have the courage to stay the course typically will turn smaller dollars into large dollars over time. Short-term gyrations due to gloom and doom typically don't last very long."
In the public school system, teachers tried to get students back on task while still making themselves available to answer questions and reassure students and staff devastated by the events of the week.
Superintendent David Hickey said the district has stayed in touch with sheriff's officials and the Emergency Operations Center. They determined schools should remain open and scheduled activities should continue.
The only cancellations: presentations by speaker Doug Herman, who had been slated to talk to the middle and high school students about abstaining from sex. The air travel ban prevented him from getting here.
Counselors were available for students and staff but there was little demand, officials reported. At virtually every school, a number of employees and students reportedly had relatives or friends who lived or worked near the attack sites.
In nearly every case, those employees and students had heard word from their relatives or friends and they were safe, according to Bonnie Hardiman, student services director.
After a morning of watching images of unspeakable destruction on the television, diners at Applebee's Neighborhood Grill & Bar in Crystal River got a lunchtime scare Tuesday.
About 12:15 p.m., a man called the restaurant and said a bomb was about to go off, said manager Diane Lewis. The restaurant was evacuated and 911 was called.
After a thorough inspection, no bomb was found and patrons were allowed to re-enter the restaurant, Lewis said.
Meanwhile, more than 100 Citrus County residents packed local blood banks Wednesday to help the relief effort by donating blood.
"You just feel so helpless. You want to do something," said Bonnie Turner, 43, an instructor at Withlacoochee Technical Institute in Inverness.
-- Staff writer Carrie Johnson contributed to this report.
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