COLLEGE PARK – Army surplus stores in Maryland reported a brisk business in survival gear Tuesday, with some saying they sold out of gas masks in the wake of apparent terrorist attacks around the country.
“We haven’t sold this much since Y2K,” said Brooke Corvelli, a salesman at Ranger Surplus in Wheaton, where he said customers bought about 50 gas masks and two dozen military issue meals-ready-to eat yesterday.
“That’s more than we’ve sold in the entire last year,” Corvelli said.
Gas mask sales at the Wheaton store, added to those at the company’s three stores in Bethesda, Fairfax and Tyson’s Corner reached about 100, said Ranger Surplus office manager Brenda Bradshaw. The Bethesda store had sold out its supply of gas masks by noon Tuesday.
Brisk sales were also reported at H&H Surplus in Baltimore: The store, which usually sells about three gas masks each month, sold a dozen Tuesday.
Other surplus and outdoor gear stores reported receiving calls from people inquiring about gas masks, but some said they were discouraging customers.
“If you want to blow 20 bucks, go ahead, but really you’ll need more efficient gear” in the event of a biochemical attack, said Chris Toft, a salesman at Sunny’s Great Outdoors in Rockville.
Not all shoppers gave a reason for their purchases, but many told store clerks that they were frightened by the morning’s attacks and looking to protect themselves.
People think “America is a safe place, but this is a reminder that this can happen. People want to be prepared,” Corvelli said.
Stocking up on survival gear is coping mechanism for some people, said Louis E. Anderson, a sociologist at Kankakee Community College in Illinois.
“Some people turn to prayer, others start looking to try to save themselves by stocking up on survival gear,” he said. “They’re all trying to restore some sense of safety because that’s what’s shattered at a time like this.”
Sales of American flags were also up, Corvelli said.
“People want to show that it may be a terrible day, but they’re proud to be American,” he said.
“I bought a flag today, too,” he added. “This way, I’ll always remember what happened the day I bought it.”