Stark reminder of a still-present threat

Published 8:58 am Monday, May 16, 2005

By Staff
Letter to the Editor
Wednesday afternoon, May 11, provided everyone on Capitol Hill with a very strong reminder of just how real the threats are against our nation's capital – even to this day – and how in many respects we still find ourselves very vulnerable.
Just after noon on that day, an alarm was sounded by the U.S. Capitol Police advising members of the House of Representatives and Senate, their staffs, and the thousands of tourists and visitors to evacuate and run as far from the Capitol building as possible. The alarm also extended to other buildings throughout downtown Washington, D.C., the Supreme Court, the Library of Congress, and within the overall area commonly referred to as the "Capitol campus."
The cause of this evacuation, as has been widely reported in the hours and days since that time, was the inadvertent entrance into restricted air space by a small Cessna aircraft. Frighteningly, this aircraft – being piloted by a student and his flight instructor, who were relying on outdated flight charts – came (under fighter escort) within three miles of the White House and four miles of the Capitol before ultimately diverting to a landing strip in Maryland by F-16 fighters, a Customs Service jet, and two Blackhawk helicopters.
Had the plane continued on its same course without acknowledging the escort fighters, it would have – no matter how lost or innocent the pilots were – been forced down.
Anyone who was working in Washington on September 11, 2001, undoubtedly felt a very frightening sense of d

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