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Missouri state government reacts to attacks

September 11, 2001
By: Amanda Joyce
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - One day after the nation's greatest terrorist attack, Missouri government officials vowed the business of government would continue today.

The legislature's special session plans to keep to its schedule. And the governor proclaimed state offices would remain open.

Within hours of Tuesday's attacks, Gov. Bob Holden addressed a hastily organized special session of the House and Senate in the morning.

"I ask our state employees to remain calm," Holden said.

He told lawmakers that state public safety agencies had been put on alert and access to government buildings restricted.

But work was go continue: "I have been assured by all security officials that we have no reason to believe there are any potential threats to any state buildings," Holden told lawmakers.

A few hours later, Holden went to a local medical facility to donate blood.

The House's three scheduled committee meetings were not canceled yesterday and today's hearings will work toward resolving issues the special session was originally called for.

Unlike the House, Senate leaders sent their employees home.

"I thought it best to release Senate employees; there being no guarantees to our security here in this building," said Senate President Pro Tem Peter Kinder R-Cape Girardeau.

"As far as I'm concerned this country is now at war," Kinder said. "The damage is many times worse then Pearl Harbor."

But the scenes around the statehouse were far from normal.

Rep. Pat Kelley, R-Lee's Summit, a pastor, led a prayer for about a dozen lawmakers in a House committee hearing room. He prayed for Pres. George Bush and all of America's leaders.

"God decided we needed to have this prayer session," Kelley said.

Armed Capitol Security patrolled the statehouse.

And even the sky above Missouri's statehouse were not normal. Where normally one would have seen the noon contrails of commercial jets traveling across the country, it was a clear blue sky that stretched from horizon to horizon above a building where one often heard the phrase "God bless America."

For some legislator's, the attacks had a personal impact.

In an emotional moment during the House session, Rep. Carol Jean Mays, D-Independence, read an e-mail she had just gotten from her daughter who lives in New York City.

"We're ok--just very emotional," Melanie Mays wrote in the message. "All of lower Manhattan looks like a disaster. I've never seen anything like it," she wrote.

"I think the best thing to do today is just stay out of the way."

Despite her daughter's plea to "stay away from the capitol in Jeff City," Mays said she felt it was important for the House to continue with special session business.

"I think we were elected to show leadership," Mays said. "I think this is where I should be."