- The Washington Times - Friday, September 14, 2001

D.C. area commuters yesterday got up, took their children to school and went to work, trying to return to a routine amid bomb threats, security checks and building evacuations two days after terrorists crashed hijacked airliners into the Pentagon and the World Trade Center.
"I felt like I had to come to work because I still have kids to take care of. I still have bills to pay. I've got to keep going," said Zephenia Casimiro, 25, who showed up for work at the Pensions Benefit Guarantee Corp. "I fear coming to work, but I can't just be scared to death."
Other local residents said they were trying to re-establish normalcy — mainly because there's not much else to do.
"Otherwise, the terrorists succeed. This is America, and we must continue," said Jeff Salisbury, a student at Catholic University of America who was working at the D.C. Superior Court yesterday.
Tom Brisendine, who works at the Washington office of the Deloitte and Touche accounting firm, said the firm's New York City office is right next to the World Trade Center and has been completely shut down.
"Most people in our office here in D.C. are just trying to get back in the groove, but it's hard to do because the management of the firm is still trying to find out if people are OK in New York. It's just very distracting," he said. "I don't know if anybody's going on with their lives completely, it's very hard to get it out of your mind."
One reminder yesterday was bomb threats — at American University, the U.S. Capitol and even the Pentagon, where a bomb threat forced rescue workers to evacuate the crash site and suspend work for two hours early yesterday.
Another reminder: military police patrolling downtown streets and military aircraft flying overhead.
At noon yesterday, helicopters circled over the crowds on New York Avenue downtown, prompting those on the street to cringe and look up.
"This is absolutely chilling," said one man at the corner of 12th Street and New York Avenue NW. "Everyone's dropping everything at the sight of those choppers because we're all scared to death."
Fear quickly turned to patriotism as, a few moments later, President Bush rode by in a motorcade on the way back from visiting victims at one of the area's hospitals. Onlookers cheered, waved or pumped their fists in the air.
As children returned to school, one longtime teacher said talking to students reminded her of dealing with President Kennedy's death in 1963.
"When the students got back days later, we talked to them openly and we let them have input on what we should do to remember them in memorials," said Lizzie Jones, a teacher at Backus Middle School. Her teaching partner at the school, Sarah Clark, was one of the 64 passengers on American Airlines Flight 77, which slammed into the Pentagon.
Mrs. Jones said she hoped teachers would be allowed to counsel the students because "that was really the only way we got over it, by talking about it in class and making time to talk about it privately."
As schools reopened, so did airports locally and nationwide — though on a very limited schedule.
Around Washington, businesses filled up. Construction crews blocked lanes and repaved roads. Customers waited in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Restaurants and cafes downtown began to fill with lunchtime crowds again.
The urge to buy eggs, milk, bread and other staple items subsided, and the region's grocery shelves have been restocked. Gasoline prices also have remained stable.
All across the region, though, water-cooler conversations about the weather and sports turned to the victims, the terrorists and personal safety.
"I think the world is still in a crisis, and I don't think it's safe for us to be here," said David Wilson, who works at Pensions Benefit Guarantee Corp. He pointed across the street to two National Guard Humvees and the soldiers milling about them. "If the government thought it was safe, they wouldn't be putting those vehicles over there," he said.
For some residents, it was impossible to return to a state of normalcy.
Dozens of rescue workers, firefighters and law enforcement officials picked through the rubble at the Pentagon, searching for survivors, remains and evidence where the plane smashed into the outer ring.
Volunteers continued to help out there and at hospitals, where victims were treated and hundreds of donors still poured in to donate blood.
The District, Maryland and Virginia remained under locally declared states of emergency, and yesterday President Bush added a federal decree of a state of emergency in Virginia, qualifying the state for disaster assistance money, equipment and federal personnel.
Many area residents said the attacks have forever changed the way they look at the world and in some cases the way they look at themselves.
"After they showed those kids dancing in the streets celebrating this in Palestine, my wife now sees them as the enemy," said Richard Waldrop, 43, a paralegal working on a contract with the Justice Department.
He said she wants them to move from their Alexandria home because it's too close to the Pentagon.
As for himself, Mr. Waldrop said, "I used to be a long-haired, peace-loving hippie, but now, heck with all that."
Brian DeBose contributed to this report.


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