WASHINGTON -Ledo’s Restaurant manager Kendra Wolfe went about her normal duties Friday, writing the daily specials on the board, giving orders to employees and seating customers at the restaurant near Langley Park.
But in the back of her mind, she says, is the nagging fear that another terrorist attack is coming soon.
“I worry about it all the time,” Wolfe said. “It drives me crazy. They’re going to get us.”
A month after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and a day after the FBI warned of possible attacks in the next several days, many Marylanders say they are feeling nervous. Some, like Wolfe, try to just live with their fears as they wait for the other shoe to drop, while others act on those jitters, calling doctors for antibiotics, buying guns, snapping up gas masks and forwarding e-mails about the latest terrorism rumors.
“I work with everyone from executives to street people,” said Russell Hibler, chief psychologist at Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore. “They’re all dealing with a sense of heightened vulnerability.”
But Hibler and others are urging people not to panic. If they must take action, officials note, there are some things people can do to prepare for an emergency and others that won’t help.
The Maryland Red Cross suggests having food, water and batteries on hand and said parents should know their children’s school emergency plan. But gas masks and the anthrax vaccine may not be necessary or helpful. And spreading — or starting — rumors put others at risk, said the FBI.
“People who start rumors are helping the terrorists achieve what they want to achieve,” said Peter Gulotta, a spokesman for the FBI in Baltimore. “It’s not funny. It drains law enforcement resources and puts the people of this country in danger.”
Health departments across the state have received hundreds of calls from people asking for the anthrax vaccine and for antibiotics in case there is a chemical attack.
“People are changing their mindset from `It won’t happen here’ to `It did happen and it was disastrous,'” said Dr. Janet Neslen of the Carroll County Health Department. “So naturally they are trying to protect themselves and their families.”
Army surplus stores continue to sell gas masks as fast as they can stock them. And gun sales have stayed high since the attacks, say gunshop owners.
“People want to be prepared for anything,” said Larry Dunn, manager of Bay Country Guns in Annapolis, where he said sales have doubled since the attacks.
These reactions are natural under the circumstances, psychologists say. With potential targets like Washington, Camp David and Fort Detrick in or around Maryland, Hibler said it is likely that at least half of the state’s residents will experience anxiety in the wake of attacks and as rumors circulate.
But Hibler, who recently returned from counseling survivors and workers at the World Trade Center, said the best medicine for anxiety is to go on with your life.
“If you fall off the horse, you have to get back on,” Hibler said. “We have to go on living.”
At a town meeting last week in Rockville, Rep. Connie Morella, R-Bethesda, urged her constituents not to panic. Morella also had a panel of experts on hand to answer questions and ease their security concerns.
“Those attacks shocked and horrified us. They swept away our innocence,” Morella said. “But let’s not panic. This is a time when we will be living with concerns, but at least we’ll know that we can come together and we will prevail.”