As the 10th anniversary of 9/11 approaches, communities in the nation’s capital and largest metropolis are working to reinforce the cities’ defenses against the increased threat of further terrorist attacks.
The Department of Homeland Security confirmed on Thursday evening that it has received credible threats against Washington, D.C., and New York City for this Sunday.
“It’s accurate that there is specific, credible, but unconfirmed threat information. As we always do before important dates like the anniversary of 9/11, we will undoubtedly get more reporting in the coming days,” Homeland Security Deputy Press Secretary Matthew Chandler said in a statement Thursday night.
CNN News reported as of press time that the terror plot, which could involve a vehicle fitted with explosives masterminded by three suspects who are residing in the United States, one of whom may be a U.S. citizen.
According to Georgetown’s Director of Media Relations Rachel Pugh, the university has made no specific plans to increase security on campus for Sept. 11.
“We take the safety of our campus community seriously every day. Our Department of Public Safety also is in constant contact with local law enforcement,” Pugh said. “As always, they will coordinate with Metropolitan Police Department to assess and address any potential threats to the safety of our campuscommunity.”
On Wednesday, the university conducted the bi-annual test of its HOYAlert and Campus Alert notification systems, which would be utilized in the case of another terrorist attack.
The Campus Alert System’s whistles, which notify those on the Hilltop to seek shelter, first sounded at 1p.m. and ended approximately two minutes later.
Georgetown students and staff who are registered for the HOYAlert program also received test emails, text messages and recorded phone calls during this same interval of time.
Kasey Reisman (COL ’12), who lost a family member in the 9/11 attacks, said that she feels that Georgetown’s security measures are appropriate.
“I imagine that this Sunday, I will feel as safe on campus as I always do. But in the event of a terrorist threat, the university can only do so much to protect us from what is going on on a much larger scale,”Reisman said. “Realistically, the most important steps for Georgetown to take are to take this occasion seriously and keep students informed, something that I believe the university already does a good jobof.”
Though the university administration will not alter its on-campus safety procedures over the weekend, government officials throughout the capital have spent the past weeks instituting new security measures and operations.
The Washington Times reported that shortly after the federal government publicized the possible terror threat, MPD Chief Cathy Lanier announced that she will invoke a state of “crime emergency,” allowing her to deploy more officers on 9/11.
Lanier will suspend certain scheduling clauses in the MPD’s contract with the police union, giving her the option to cancel officers’ leaves and issue them posts however she sees fit.
This latest development comes soon after Lanier’s introduction of the terrorism prevention systemiWATCHDC early this week.
The program allows users to log onto iwatchdc.dc.gov to report suspicious activity. According to MPD’swebsite, analysts review each report that is received and have the option to contact whoever filed the report to ask follow-up questions.
“We encourage anyone who witnesses what appears to be suspicious or out of the ordinary activity to report this by using iWATCHDC or calling 911,” Lanier said in a press release.
“Even though the activity may seem insignificant, it may be just the piece of information that is needed to get a clearer picture of a potential terrorist plot or criminal activity.”
iWATCHDC is separate from the police department’s crime alert service, DC Police Alert, which sends emergency notifications to local users’ cell phones, smartphones or emails.
On a national scale, the Department of Defense has already raised the alert level at all United States military bases and the Pentagon, which will be hosting an invite-only ceremony for victims’ families on the anniversary.
In New York City, NYPD is preparing to secure the World Trade Center site, which will be visited by President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush.
New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said in a press release on Wednesday that thousands of additional officers, some with specialized training, will surround the Ground Zero memorial site.
At the time, Kelly said that he did not have knowledge of any prospective attacks.
Despite these security concerns, the majority of the 9/11 memorials and commemorations are scheduled to proceed normally as of press time.
For Reisman, the events of Sept. 11 hold a lasting message for Americans.
“Understandably, a lot of people feel little or no connection to the events of 9/11 because they do not know anyone affected or are not from the New York area,” she said. “However, I think it should go beyond that. It should serve as a reminder for all to cherish the ones you love, don’t take a single day for granted and take safety seriously.”