By Tim Leeds and Tim Eberly
Today's terrorist attacks reverberated through the state and into Havre.
Havre Mayor Phyllis Leonard said the city is making sure it is ready in case of any emergency. There is a possibility that electricity could be diverted from Montana to help areas attacked, such as New York, she said, and city personnel are preparing for possible power losses.
Leonard said the city is making sure all vehicles are ready and that generators are in operating order, and the city water supply is prepared for an emergency. Extra police officers are being called on duty, and the city firefighters are being alerted of possible duty, Leonard said.
Kirk Miller, Havre superintendent of schools, said that despite the terrorist attacks that struck the Pentagon and World Trade Center this morning, business is being conducted as usual at Havre schools.
"Our main focus is that a great deal of the media will cover this overnight, and we will be prepared in all of our schools to conduct business as usual while addressing individual students' concerns resulting from the tragedy," Miller said.
Miller sent an e-mail to all schools in the district instructing administrators to conduct a preschool meeting Wednesday morning with teachers and other employees to prepare them for meeting with students. At the meeting, Miller wants administrators to address concerns about heightened safety awareness and personal safety, establishing facts and stopping rumors, and to come up with a plan for dealing with the media.
"This is all in the making right now," Miller said. "We'll have everything established tomorrow. We need to see how the night transpires and then I'll have direction."
When Miller was informed of the hijacked planes that flew into the World Trade Center and later the Pentagon, he called or visited all of the schools in his jurisdiction to ensure the administrators were informed of the incident.
"We made contact with each of the buildings, talking with the building administrators or building secretaries to, first of all, find out if everybody knew of the terrorist attacks this morning. The first effort is to inform staff members of that, so we have the adults in the environment who are equipped with the appropriate information."
A tragedy of this magnitude is dealt with differently with high school and elementary school students. Sunnyside, Highland Park and Lincoln McKinley schools do not have access to the media, such as television or radio reports. However, junior high and secondary schools are given exposure to the media.
"Age-appropriate is how we deal with a situation like this," Miller said. "There has been very minimal activity at our elementary schools, as far as what has transpired. If questions come from the (elementary school) students, they are being addressed in the classroom."
Meantime, middle and high schools "have access to a great deal of media during the day, so students are aware of issues as they are transpiring. But, at this point, there has been no formal emphasis on discussion groups," Miller said.
Miller, who visited Havre High today, said students were watching television news reports in their history classes.
"That's a recording of history in the making," Miller said.
Miller did not allow reporters access to any of the schools or students to glean their initial reactions to the events, saying it was inappropriate and unproductive.
The students at the high school were "quiet and subdued," Miller acknowledged. "Certainly, our older students are concerned with what's going on. I think the students of that age understand the significance of this event and they're reacting much like adults do."
Elsewhere in Havre, the Montana Army National Guard was put on ready status, said Lt. Col. Joe Foster, public affairs officer. All units have been notified that they are one step up in preparedness, he said.
Foster added that all armories are being put into a secure position. The armories are still open for business, he said, but access to compounds holding equipment is being tightly shut down.
Churches in the Havre area are holding special services, prayer vigils or using prayer networks to help people through the tragedy.
The Havre Assembly of God Church held a prayer vigil at noon today. The Rev. Steve Flatau said he was encouraging everyone of all faiths and denominations to come in and join them in prayer to "lift up our country right now."
Flatau said his church would probably hold another vigil Wednesday evening about 8:30 p.m. for roughly an hour. "However long, just for people to pray and find the Lord," he added.
Tiffany Korb, manager of the Holiday Village Shopping Center, said she allowed a voluntary closure of the stores in the mall in observance of the tragedy.
"Its just a national day of mourning," she said.
Korb said Security National Properties, the owner of Holiday Village, notified her that if other malls in the state were closing in observance of the terrorist attacks, she could close the shopping center.
"We are in support. It is a national tragedy and it is affecting lives and we want to help any way we can," she added.
Perry Ahern of the Gallery Lounge said he was watching the TV broadcasts about the tragedy this morning, but it was hard to take it all in.
"I'm just shocked," he said. "I guess we all knew it could happen. It's just that magnitude, it's just a shame. It's just an eerie feeling."