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Locals get word of loved ones’ safety

As the nation reels from the World Trade Center and Pentagonattacks, Brookhaven citizens this morning kept television andradios tuned in to get the latest reports of damage andinjuries.

The safety of loved ones in either New York or Washington was onthe minds of many.

Former Congressman Mike Parker was at the Pentagon this morningfor talks regarding his nomination to a Corps of Engineers post,said his mother Pauline. However, he was at the Capitol during theexplosion at the Pentagon.

“We’ve heard from both of them, and they’re OK,” she said aboutMike and his wife Rosemary.

Also in Washington for a WorldCom Board of Directors meetingwere Carl Aycock and Bernie Ebbers. Susan Aycock said she hadreceived word that both were all right, but they were making hotelreservations to stay the night because of closed airports followingthe attacks.

“They won’t be able to fly out probably,” Aycock said.

City Clerk Iris Rudman said she received a call from her sonJerry who works at the Johnson and Johnson plant in Allendale,N.J., which is near the New York border. The plant was shut downthis morning and New York citizens were being advised to stayaway.

“They told people from New York City to not try and go home,”Rudman said.

Many people dialed their telephones and cellular phonesfuriously in search of loved ones when they heard the news.

Ronnie Porter of Brookhaven was relieved when his brother,Terry, called home safely from his apartment in New York City thismorning.

“His apartment is about a mile from the World Trade Center,”Porter said. “He heard the first plane hit and went out on hisbalcony and saw the second plane.”

At the government complex, Mayor Bill Godbold, Rudman and otheroffice employees watched events unfold on television.

“It looks like an act of war from some means, we don’t knowyet,” Godbold said.

In tragedy-related local activity, the Brookhaven Airport hasbeen closed, said manager Benton Furlow.

“We cannot let anybody leave the ground,” Furlow said.

Furlow said he has no control over anyone who needs to land, butonce on the ground they can’t go up again. He said there have beenno landings today.

A helicopter left the airport around 7:30 a.m. today headed forSouth Carolina.

“That’s all the traffic we’ve had today,” Furlow said.

Furlow was expecting an update from Greenwood Flight Service,which oversees airports and flight plans for the region, around 11a.m.

“It looks like a bad situation,” Furlow said.

Steve Melancon (Col., Ret.) served in the Pentagon with thedirector of the Army National Guard during his Army career.

He said his office in the Pentagon was “very close to that. Icould look out the window and see the heliport.”

Melancon said he believed Tuesday morning’s actions needed to betreated not as a terrorist action, but as an act of war.

“I think we need to treat this exactly the same as PearlHarbor,” he said. “They need to be treated as a military enemy. Ifit happens to be a civilian (terrorist) organization so be it.”

Melancon urged patience. He said “we need to take our time, notbe hasty, and be very sure” of who committed the acts. Once that isdone, he said, Congress should take an active role.

“Let me be very clear,” he said. “At that point we need anactual declaration of war.”

In response to the acts, military bases and personnel across thenation have been put on alert.

Sergeant First Class Lee Mathis of Company C, 1st MaintenanceBattalion, said Brookhaven is not different. Members of the unithave been alert, which means they must remain in contact with theunit at all times in case it is ordered to respond.

“It’s a standard procedure for something like this,” Mathissaid.

Many local residents are ready to counteract the horrific actsthat swept across America.

Some were angry that such terrorists acts could happen in thiscountry. One Brookhaven businesswoman even blamed the governmentand its loose regulations on people coming and going from theUnited States.

“I think our customs need to be tougher,” said Jill Davis. “WhenI lived in Kuwait, they fully searched everyone coming into Kuwaitand you were only allowed in the country for certain reasons.

“We should have been more prepared. We let our guard down.”

Davis, along with several other hair stylists, ceased theirdaily routines, just as most other local residents did thismorning.

“We’ve been watching since the first plane hit the World TradeCenter,” Davis said as she gathered around the TV in her barbershop in the downtown area.

Despite the shock many people were experiencing, businesscontinued in the downtown area, but most talk centered around thenational events.

“We’re all stunned, but we have kept the bank open. We did stopand have prayer this morning,” Lavern Hardin, vice president of alocal bank, stated.

Several bank employees watched television and updated otheremployees periodically.

Officials at Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Wesson canceledclasses this morning and night sessions will not meet, spokesmanNatalie Davis said. Classes will resume on schedule Wednesday, shesaid.