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City Workers Confront Fears Some Employees React To Attack On City Hall With Call For Tightened Security

Tue., April 30, 1996

When the bomb exploded at Spokane City Hall, it fractured city employees’ sense of security.

“Your workplace should be safe,” said John Delay of City Cable 5. “What it takes to be safe, who knows in this case?”

“We’re fairly vulnerable,” said Ken Pelton of the Planning Department.

Stunned workers gathered Monday morning in a conference room at the Spokane Arena, waiting for word about when or if they would go to work that day.

They made calls to worried relatives, munched on muffins and doughnuts. Each time the television aired more information about the bombing, their anxious chatter stopped.

Many employees wondered what the bombing signaled for their future. This time, no one was hurt. But, they wondered aloud, was this an isolated attempt? A warning? A practice run?

“This has to be a message to the city because it happened so early,” said Terri Pfister, interim city clerk.

“How many warnings can you get before someone is really hurt?” asked Judy Triplett of the Reprographics Department.

Several workers said they hoped the explosion triggered tightened security at City Hall, possibly guards and metal detectors.

“They better start taking this seriously,” said Gayle Crockett, a legal assistant.

Crockett, like others, said she was angered by the bombing but not terribly surprised. “Most people in City Hall have been waiting,” she said. “There’s so many kooks running about.”

About 11:30 a.m., Police Chief Terry Mangan and Mayor Jack Geraghty briefed employees about the explosion. All seven floors were being searched, they said. No one would return until authorities felt the building was safe.

“Our primary interest is your protection and the protection of citizens,” Geraghty said.

Two hours later, employees collected outside City Hall’s south door, waiting to go inside.

Four teenagers wandered by, one in a long cape, another with dyed green hair.

“Anarchy rules!” one shouted. “You can’t trust the government!”

“That’s a real smart thing to say beside a building that’s been bombed,” legal assistant Crockett remarked out of the teens’ hearing.

She was anxious about returning to work.

“We want the public to think we’re carrying on as normal. But the public isn’t going in that building right now. It’s kind of scary.”

As employees went inside, many paused for a moment to inspect the damage.

A crowded elevator groaned and scraped something metal as it climbed. The noise unnerved a group already shaken by the morning’s events.

“I’m gonna get off here and take the stairs,” said one man, who jumped off on the second floor. “Oh, God,” muttered a woman as the doors closed and the scraping sound resumed.

Geraghty said counseling would be available to any employees who felt stressed by the bombing. Many said they just wanted to get through the afternoon - start fresh in the morning.

“I would have felt better coming in tomorrow,” said council secretary Susan Dawood. “But maybe this is a good thing. It’s better to confront your fears.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo

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