ANNAPOLIS – The historic Maryland State House was evacuated just after noon Tuesday when Gov. Parris N. Glendening’s office received a threat that the state complex was one of two Maryland targets on a terrorist list.
The threat — that the State House, the World Trade Center in Baltimore and Andrews Air Force Base appeared on a list of 11 targets sent to a federal agency in the past few days — turned out to be a hoax. A Baltimore man was arrested at his home Tuesday night by state police and FBI agents and charged with one count of making a false report of a crime.
By the time the State House was evacuated, however, a Maryland state of emergency had already been declared in the wake of attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Virginia.
The state of emergency reduced personnel at all state agencies to essential staff, gave local school boards authority to close schools at their discretion and placed the National Guard on standby.
Maryland government continued from the State Emergency Operations Center in Reisterstown, where the governor convened his Cabinet and determined the state’s response to the nearby terror.
The state of emergency declaration allows the governor to free state resources, said Quentin Banks, information officer at the Maryland Emergency Management Agency.
The Maryland National Guard’s military police unit was federalized, putting it under the control of the Department of Defense. It is awaiting orders to mobilize.
The hospital ship, USS Comfort, docked in Baltimore, was sent to Norfolk to stock medical supplies before heading to New York to participate in the recovery effort.
About 100 people from the Montgomery County Urban Search and Rescue unit, joined three other search and rescue teams dispatched to the Pentagon. The county unit also participated in the Oklahoma City bombing recovery operations.
Montgomery County members of the National Medical Response Team also responded to the Pentagon.
Downtown Annapolis was ordered shut down by midday with the U.S. Naval Academy raising its threat condition three times throughout the morning.
“If someone came in and gave me gas when I asked for ID, I’d have to shoot them,” said a Marine guarding one of the academy’s entrances.
Quiet streets replaced normally bustling lunchtime activity in downtown Annapolis, where shopkeepers were more concerned about the attacks than about losing the afternoon’s business.
“Business we can do another time,” said Joyce Kaminkow, owner of Annapolis Country Store.
Jammed phone lines were one indicator that people had more important things on their minds.
“Everyone is trying to reach their loved ones,” said Brenda Raney, a Verizon spokeswoman, who compared Tuesday’s call volume to Mother’s Day.
“All of our networks on the East Coast are experiencing unprecedented call volume, and that means it takes longer for everyone to get through,” Raney said.
In Baltimore, the local FBI was mobilized, but at least one agent shared the general public’s shock.
“We’re all watching television. . .in total disbelief,” said Special Agent Peter Gulotta, an FBI spokesman.
Tuesday afternoon, Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant was at full power.
“We’ve taken appropriate actions to ensure the continued safety of Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant,” spokesman Karl Neddenien said.
Glendening was just arriving at the Renaissance Hotel in Baltimore to give remarks at a state roundtable when he heard of the first attack in New York City.
After finishing his remarks and hearing of the attack on the Pentagon he left for Annapolis, where he spent the morning meeting with advisers.
Just before noon, as the governor was preparing for a television interview in the House of Delegates Chamber, the building was swiftly evacuated.
Glendening spoke to the press minutes later across the street from the State House in an area known as Lawyers’ Mall.
“It’s both complex and confusing right now,” the governor said, urging Marylanders to remain calm.
Glendening spoke with New York Gov. George Pataki, Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore and District of Columbia Mayor Anthony Williams, offering any assistance he could provide.
A spokeswoman said Glendening planned to spend the night at Government House, the governor’s mansion.
Shortly after 7 p.m. Tuesday, state police and FBI agents arrested Quentin L. Johnson, 22, of Baltimore, and charged him with making the false report that Annapolis was on a terrorist target list.
Police said Johnson, who had briefly served in the military, called the State Emergency Operations Center about 11 a.m. and claimed to be a former federal official who had seen reports of a possible terrorist attack Tuesday, with the three Maryland sites listed as potential targets.
Authorities took the call seriously at the time, but later tracked it to Johnson, who they said was questioned at his home for about 90 minutes and confessed to the hoax around 7:15 p.m.
Officials said they do not know of a motive for the hoax. Johnson faces a misdemeanor charge of making a false report of a crime.