Flashback to 9/11: 'We don't know who we are fighting. We are at war.'

Sarah Lifshin and Mark Scolforo
York Dispatch

EDITOR'S NOTE: What follows is the first draft of history — The York Dispatch's first story about how the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks impacted the residents of York County. The story, which was reported on Sept. 11-12 and appeared in the evening edition of the newspaper on Sept. 12, is presented again in remembrance of what we lost 20 years ago today.

Within hours of the orchestrated terrorist attacks on American cities, Yorkers were lining up to fight back — giving blood, buying guns, flying flags and preparing to enlist in the armed services.

Across the county, reaction to the tragedy included horror and determination while all local government offices reopened under tight security.

As rescuers searched for survivors at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, county residents were pouring out in unprecedented numbers to help.

More than a hundred people signed up to donate blood at the Wellspan Blood Donor Services Center at Apple Hill Medical Center, where dozens crowded a lobby waiting to make their contributions early in the afternoon.

Donor Center technician Kim Bair helps Nick Whitman give blood at Apple Hill Donor Center on South George Street.

Jennifer Dixon, 20, a junior at York College, said she decided to give blood after seeing in media reports that Wellspan was looking for donors. Her boyfriend, 19-year-old sophomore Brandon May, was also donating.

"I figured, a little pain of the needle is nothing compared to what's going on elsewhere," she said.

'On edge': Elsewhere in the county, people had a more visceral response to the crisis.

In East Prospect, residents were decorating their homes with American flags and red, white and blue blunting, while others were lined up at a local gun shop.

Fifteen people stood outside Layman's Gun Shop and Archery Pro Center when owner Terry Nicozisis arrived.

They all wanted to purchase handguns and ammunition.

"Anytime we are in a situation like this, people want to protect themselves," Nicozisis said. "People are a little on edge right now."

Like what you're reading? Consider subscribing to The York Dispatch.

Nearly 50 people had purchased guns by noon, and it was not because of the upcoming deer season.

"People can't shoot deer with pistols," he said. "They want the guns for protection."

Jeff Sawyer said it was the need to protect his family that drew him into Layman's to purchase a pistol.

"That is the only reason I am here today," Sawyer said. "I was contemplating buying a pistol for a while but these events helped me make up my mind. This put me over the edge."

From right, York College students Mary Beth Korpics, Jane Dunaway and Katie Catalano study while waiting in a hallway to give blood at Apple Hill Donor Center. With a full waiting room, about 70 people were forced into the hall until their time to contribute.

Patriotism: Residents of East Prospect responded to the tragedy with a display of platriotism.

A 5-foot U.S. flag hung yesterday from Maxine Kuntz's porch, fastened to the roof.

Staring at the flag, she took a few steps back from her house and stood in the street.

She looked at a neighbor's porch decorated with small flags, anotehr decorated with bunting. Her friend, Rodney Emlet, walked up to her waving his own patriotic emblem.

"I can't believe what is going on," said Kuntz, East Prospect's mayor, with tears in her eyes. "We don't know who we are fighting. We are at war."

Only hours after the first plane crash, a dozen homes were decorated.

Kuntz said she spent most of the morning trying to contact her grandson, an Air Force officer who lives in Wrightsville and works in the Pentagon's communications department.

"I was scared to death," she said. "I couldn't reach him, and I thought he was working."

Luckily, he did not go to work yesterday.

Cathy Huber sat on her North Main Street porch, watching neighbors hang flags from their windows, doors, railings and walls.

She shook her head, finally resting it on her hand.

"We're going to war," she said. "I know we are. I don't think things are over yet."

Ready to fight: War was on the minds of many after the attack.

Military recruiters in York saw a "high increase" in calls yesterday as a wave of patriotic reaction to the presumed terrorist attack prompted many to volunteer.

"A lot of them aren't qualified to be in the service, but it's great to see basically a call to arms," said Sgt. First Class David Clark, an Army recruiter at the office on White Street in West Manchester Township.

Clark said his volume of calls amounted to about 50 people, and recruiters from the other branches of the military were reporting a similar reaction. Many of the callers are veterans expressing an interest in rejoining the service, Clark said.

"We're taking all their information, doing some prequalification" research, he said. "And we told them we will call them back tomorrow. We are not setting up appointments because we think some of this might be emotional flow."

High alert: Security was also tightened at local military installations and nuclear plants yesterday. Civilians were barred from the Pennsylvania National Guard Armory on North George Street, and the Guard opened a 24-hour emergency operations center at Fort Indiantown Gap to coordinate efforts across the states.

"We have alos sent officials, Guard members, to Harrisburg to augment the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency," said Guard Lt. Col. Chris Cleaver.

William Hayek, left, of York, takes notes during the Red Cross disaster training class held at Commonwealth Fire Company.

Nonessential state employees were let out early yesterday, Cleaver said, but the Guard had not activated any members for state or federal duty.

At the 3,000-employee Defense Distribution Center in northern York County, increased security measures were implemented, but workers there remained on the job, said public affairs officer Jackie Noble.

Vehicles were lined up outside the facility today as guards conducted car-by-car searches.

Emergency operations: York County officials spent last night at the county's Pleasant Acres offices, manning the emergency operations center there.

"We were set to gear down at 8 o'clock (last night), but the state asked us to stay open 24/7 until further notice," said Lowell Briggs, a deputy public information officer for York County.

Briggs said the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency made the request so if York-based assistance is needed in New York, Washington, D.C., or Somerset County, the county will be able to dispatch volunteers immediately.

Patrick McFadden, York County's executive director for emergency services, said counties across the state are notifying PEMA of what type of volunteers they have to offer, and how many. PEMA will act as central repository, he said.

Volunteers could include search-and-rescue dog teams, equipment, local doctors and local emergency responders, he said.

Dr. Bernard Wujcik, a York dentist, was called to Somerset County to help identify victims of the United Airlines Flight 93 crash.

McFadden said York County and six other counties — Adams, Lancaster, Cumberland, Dauphin, Lebanon and Perry — are part of the South Central Pennsylvania Counter-Terrorism Task Force.

"We met for two solid years, to have a plan available . . . should this kind of incident occur in this area," he said. The point of the task force is for a block of counties to provide mutual aid to each other during disasters, he said.

As for yesterday's evacuation of the York County Courthouse and county offices, McFadden said county commissioners decided to close up shop yesterday out of concern for county employees. County officers reopened this morning at 8:30 a.m.

"My understanding is, they felt the staff were feeling stressed as a result of what occurred. They're working in a government facility," McFadden said. "We'd rather be safe than sorry."

Security concerns also spurred a partial lockdown at York County Prison, Warden Tom Hogan said.

He described it as "heightened security," but said inmates are not being locked in their cells as is done in a normal lockdown. For now, visits to prisoners have been suspended.

Nuclear alert: The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission recommended that all nuclear power plants — including Exelon's Peach Bottom and Three Mile Island nuclear power plants — go to the highest level of security.

Non-power reactors, nuclear fuel facilities and gaseous diffusion plants were included in the recommendation.

"While there has been no credible general or specific threats to any of these facilities, the recommendation was considered prudent, given the acts of terrorism," the NRC wrote in a press release.

Jeff Grove, of the local Salvation Army, carries supplies to a truck bound for New York City.

No more information was available from the NRC because heightened security measures were classified.

Nuclear plants are designed to withstand hurricanes, direct missile and airline strikes up to a particular force. The walls are built with reinforced concrete up to 4 feet thick, with steel liners throughout.

"It's difficult to say whether they would be impermeable to every single form of attack but they're designed under very, very stringent guidelines," said Mary Rucci, spokesperson for Exelon Generation, which runs Unit 1 of Three Mile Island and Peach Bottom Nuclear Power Plant.

State Capitol reopens: The state Capitol reopened this morning with increased security. Additional Capitol police officers, wearing black bands over their badges in memory of the officers killed in New York Tuesday, were posted at each entrance.

Capitol police were allowing employees into the building after checking identification, but they were turning away contractors and delivery people early this morning.

Police said they expected tours of the Capitol to resume today.