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Retro Baltimore: It was a beautiful Baltimore September day until 8:46 a.m.

The morning of Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001, was especially beautiful, with clear skies and cool temperatures and none of the humidity that plagues Baltimore during the late summer. The day was shattered at 8:46 a.m., when the first airliner hit the World Trade Center in New York.

The day fell apart, as a second plane hit the other World Trade Center tower and news reports indicated there was another target in Washington, D.C. Later in the morning, a fourth plane was reported going down in a Pennsylvania field.

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The reality of the day was brought even closer to Marylanders after the Pentagon was struck. Washington, D.C., workers who lived in Baltimore packed midday commuter trains, so much so that Baltimore’s Pennsylvania Station was eerily empty at 5:30 p.m., two Sun reporters observed.

Downtown Baltimore office workers who were at their desks packed up early and went home before noon.

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“Traffic backed up on the city’s main north-south streets as hundreds of people fled the city to gather their children and go home,” The Sun reported. “It seemed as if rush hour had arrived at 11:30 in the morning.”

By late afternoon, the heart of the downtown business district was deserted.

Firefighter Mark Gardner, of Parkton, shot this photo during the nine days he spent doing search and rescue for victims of the Sept. 11 World Trade Center attacks in 2001.
Firefighter Mark Gardner, of Parkton, shot this photo during the nine days he spent doing search and rescue for victims of the Sept. 11 World Trade Center attacks in 2001. (Photo courtesy of Mark Gardner)

Maryland’s military bases were put on the highest security alert. The Sun reported that police officers with long guns were placed at front gates blocked by sand-filled dump trucks.

“Traffic backed up for miles outside the bases — Fort Meade, Fort Detrick, Aberdeen Proving Ground, the Patuxent River Naval Air Station and the U.S. Naval Academy — as authorities opened trunks and checked under cars with mirrors, allowing only visitors with approved military credentials inside,” The Sun reported the day after the attacks took place.

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“What’s a target is anyone’s guess,” Fort Meade spokeswoman Kathy Vantran said in a statement at the time. “It’s been a totally shocking day. Anything could happen.”

The paper reported that the National Security Agency evacuated shortly after 10 a.m., sending all nonessential workers home. At the Naval Academy, officials closed the campus gates and those of the neighboring naval station to all traffic and pulled students from class.

Maryland’s Gov. Parris N. Glendening declared a state of emergency by 11:30 a.m. as local officials opened emergency operation centers and placed police forces on unprecedented levels of alert. Roughly 200 members of a Maryland National Guard military police unit were federalized and dispatched to Washington.

Maryland officials evacuated the State House complex in Annapolis and the World Trade Center in Baltimore nearly two hours after the attack in New York. State officials told reporters they had received what they believed was “credible” information that both places could be targets of attack.

Then-Gov. Glendening and Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend spent most of the day at the state’s emergency operations center at Camp Fretterd Military Reservation in Reisterstown.

In Baltimore, Mayor Martin O’Malley and Police Commissioner Edward T. Norris announced that all available police officers were being called in and placed on 12-hour shifts in the event of an emergency.

Police cordoned off the area downtown around police headquarters, the World Trade Center, City Hall and the Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. Courthouse.

Mayor O’Malley was en route to New York to help his younger brother, Patrick, campaign for City Council there.

“But just after crossing the New Jersey line in the morning, he heard about the attack and returned to the city,” The Sun reported.

“Everything’s chaotic at school,” said Diana Fields, a 16-year-old student at Wilde Lake High School in Columbia. “People were crying everywhere. They knew people who were involved, possibly — in the planes and in the Pentagon. It was crazy. We just decided to go home.”

By 11:30 in the morning, dozens of jittery parents were arriving at Dulaney High School in Timonium to retrieve their children. Some were trembling and tearful as they crowded into the main office, Principal Lyle Patzkowsky said in news reports.

It took a while for local reporters to uncover that the 9/11 terrorist cell lived and planned the attack close to home. A group of the terrorists, who later perished in the downed planes, spent time at the Valencia motel in Laurel. They worked out at a gym in Beltsville.

A pair of the terrorists bought their tickets to a flight from Dulles to Los Angeles. This was the flight that later hit the Pentagon. The terrorists had picked up their one-way tickets at an American Airlines counter at what is now BWI Marshall Airport.

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