New level of security awareness seen in Mid-Columbia after 9/11

Sept. 11, 2001, began as a normal day for Kennewick Sgt. Ken Lattin, as it did for most people in the Tri-Cities.

Lattin, who was assigned to motorcycle cop duty, prepared to go to work, riding to where he could keep an eye on traffic near Horse Heaven Hills School.

He hadn't noticed the morning news, so he was a bit puzzled when a parent asked: "Is it safe for my children to go to school today?"

Still unaware of the hijacked airplanes hitting the twin towers in New York City, Lattin answered confidently.

"I said 'Sure. It was as safe as any other day,' " he recalls telling the parent.

He soon would know the reason for the parent's concern.

"Overall, life changed that day. I can't remember what I did yesterday, but I remember everything about 9/11," he said.

A decade later, the acts of 19 hijackers and the deaths of almost 3,000 people on Sept. 11, 2001, continue to affect daily routines for many people whose jobs involve security and public safety.

For example, 3-foot-tall concrete barriers were installed around the Federal Building in Richland. The "Jersey barriers" remain as a security perimeter for city and federal officials.

Aside from that, security plans in Richland haven't changed since 9/11, although there is a higher level of awareness regarding the security of city vehicles, said Grant Baynes, fire chief and emergency services director for Richland.

"We pay much closer attention to our vehicles because we certainly don't want to see one stolen and perhaps used for all the wrong reasons," Baynes said. "The key to keeping a safer environment is as much a community effort as it is the (emergency services department) responsibility. The more aware we are, the safer we are. That's what I tell my kids, and it's what I tell my employees."

Kennewick police have become more diligent about checking doors and making the security rounds at city buildings. Prior to 9/11, it wasn't unusual to find a door ajar or unlocked at a city facility such as a fire station.

"Not anymore," Lattin said.

All of Kennewick's water storage facilities have been on the daily security rounds since the early 1990s, during the days of Operation Desert Storm.

The daily checks on the city's water supply were begun as a precaution against any potential acts of vandalism or terrorism that could be triggered by reaction to U.S. military involvement in Iraq.

Lattin said the daily security checks continue, as does vigilance on securing doors at city facilities nightly.

In some ways, focus on having a safe and secure community has expanded almost without notice. For example, in Kennewick, the city recently received a grant so wireless technology can be installed to help monitor the train bridge over the Columbia River at Pasco.

Lattin noted the bridge is considered an important component in national security for this part of the country.

The Pasco Police Department and Franklin County Sheriff's Office couldn't be reached for comment Friday.

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