Wednesday, September 11, 2013

September 11 at the Roundhouse

I was working at the Roundhouse on September 11, 2001.

I wrote about that day in column a couple of years later, in fact exactly 10 years ago today.

You can see that below:

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican 
Sept. 11, 2003

This is an odd little story about Sept. 11, 2001, that was too insignificant to make the news that day, but which was representative of the fear and madness unfolding that terrible day.

Soon after the news of the hijacked planes crashing into the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon broke, a small army of state police moved to guard the entrances of the Roundhouse, where a special session of the Legislature was taking place. Police cars were on the sidewalk in front of the Capitol.

In retrospect, the police show of force wasn't necessary. But at the time, nobody knew what might be the next terrorist target.

Then-Gov. Gary Johnson called a news conference. His main message was one of reassurance. He'd been in contact with state Office of Emergency Management, the Public Safety Department and the National Guard and there was no evidence of any pending attack in New Mexico.

"We are at a heightened state of readiness, " Johnson said. "State government is up and running."

But at the end of the news conference, as reporters began leaving the governor's cabinet room, I ran into Rep. Ken Martinez, D-Grants. "You haven't been evacuated yet?" he asked.

Evacuated? Martinez explained that state police had told lawmakers they would have to leave the building because of a bomb threat.

It turned out that someone had called the governor's office that morning -- before the news conference, it turned out -- to say there was a bomb in the Capitol. A few minutes later, a sheepish Johnson told a small group of reporters that he hadn't mentioned it because he didn't give much credence to the threat.

Johnson, of course, was correct. There was no real danger. But it was strange having to leave the building for a couple of hours so soon after being reassured all was well.

I don't think police ever caught the little cretin who pulled such a grim joke on such a dark day. If they ever do, I'd like to have a personal word with him.