Thursday, December 5, 2013
KITTERY — Four hours after police cordoned off the area around a shuttle bus stop Friday because a suspicious package was found there, the owner returned to retrieve the blue duffel bag, which contained her clothes.
A Maine State Police explosive disposal unit had arrived in Kittery about 3:30 p.m. to help local authorities deal with the unattended bag at the corner of Hunter Road and Water Street.
Police and firefighters evacuated two homes and a lobster pound and kept people about a quarter-mile away for hours after a person reported the unattended bag at a stop for a shuttle that runs hourly between Kittery and Portsmouth, N.H.
Interim Police Chief Theodor Short said Route 1 in the area was closed off, but that caused less of an inconvenience than it would ordinarily because the Memorial Bridge is closed for construction work.
Chrystal Ryan saw the commotion when she returned to the area to reclaim her bag. Ryan, who is homeless and had spent the night at the Northeaster Motel on the Route 1 Bypass, said she left the bag at the bus stop temporarily while she went to retrieve her sleeping bag from the motel. Along the way, she stopped to have coffee with her boyfriend at the Circle K convenience store.
The event typifies the heightened vigilance that has gripped many people since two homemade bombs inside backpacks exploded at the Boston Marathon early last week.
A massive manhunt led to the killing of one suspect in the bombings and the capture of a second suspect, his brother.
Short said his department's response is no different than it would have been in the past, but he believes the public response is different.
"On the civilian side of things, they're more aware of these things than they were two weeks ago," he said.
Deb Braun, a Kittery resident who was out for her daily walk with her golden retriever Mya, said she can feel the difference since the Boston bombings happened.
"I think anxiety is a perfect word," she said. "I think people are really on alert lately."
In the past, she has seen backpacks and duffle bags left in the park alongside the Route 1 approach to the Memorial Bridge and not thought twice about it.
"But I would today and I guess somebody else did, too," she said.
Short said that while police believed it likely that a traveler simply forgot his or her bag, they regarded it as potentially dangerous when it went unclaimed for more than three hours.
The Boston bombings also have led police departments to evaluate their preparedness for such a situation, Short said. The lengthy response time to get a bomb disposal unit from Augusta might be something worth examining further, he said.
On Friday, as the state police bomb disposal unit drove away, Ryan called after them, "Sorry."
David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at: