September 9, 2011

Attacks put Maine on alert

In Augusta, Gov. Angus King and his staff scrambled to coordinate the state's response even as he worried about his son just blocks away from ground zero.

By Susan M. Cover
State House Bureau

(Continued from page 1)

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"It was a huge psychological blow to America," said Angus King, who was Maine's governor at the time of the Sept. 11 attacks. "We had, for 200 years, felt safe behind the oceans. It was deeply upsetting because of the sudden feeling of vulnerability that really hadn't been there before."

John Ewing Staff Photographer

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Around 5 p.m., King's wife, Mary, brought their children Molly and Ben, both of whom were in grade school, to Augusta for a visit.

"She wanted the kids to see me, to see that I was OK," he said.

His family headed back to Brunswick and the governor was left to decide whether to spend the night at Camp Keyes, the Blaine House or his home. He chose Camp Keyes, which meant spending the night on a cot. He remembers his executive protection agent bunking on a cot as well, his tall frame extending well beyond the end of the makeshift bed.

King was glad that he stayed.

He was awoken in the middle of the night when it was discovered that two of the terrorists -- Mohamed Atta and Abdulaziz Alomari -- had flown out of the Portland International Jetport on their way to Boston to board American Airlines Flight 11. Atta flew the plane into the north tower of the World Trade Center.

"We immediately jumped into coordinating with the FBI, the Portland police, the state police," King said.

In the days and weeks that followed, King was in regular communication with White House officials who briefed governors from around the country. He remembers one call, in which he and the governor of Michigan raised the issue of border security and the importance of balancing the need for safety with the needs of workers who travel to Canada and back.

Later, the governors were told that there were rumors of another plot, so the White House ordered all airports to be secured. No one could fly without being checked by authorities. King said he ordered Maine National Guardsmen to all airports in Maine, to comply with the White House order.

"At about 8 or 9 that night I get a call that the airport people are going nuts," he said. "The airport people are so mad they called the FAA. The FAA said we don't know anything about (the order). I was just furious."

For months after the attacks, the governor's office and many state officials spent considerable time helping the federal government investigate the Maine connection to the act of terrorism, Rand said.

King said the attacks shocked Americans out of their comfort zone.

"It was a huge psychological blow to America," he said. "We had, for 200 years, felt safe behind the oceans. It was deeply upsetting because of the sudden feeling of vulnerability that really hadn't been there before."

Rand said, "In retrospect, you think it's kind of silly to think that the State House in Maine could have been a target, or that the governor of Maine could have been a target. But that's just how unprecedented the day's events were."

MaineToday Media State House Writer Susan Cover can be contacted at 620-7015 or at:

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