Governors Spearhead War Relief Effort

 
Governors of the other 49 states joined with New York Gov. George Pataki Monday to create a relief fund for victims of the attack on the World Trade Center and provide equipment and supplies for the recovery effort, the National Governors' Association announced.

Those wishing to donate to the victims' relief fund are being encouraged by governors to send donations to the New York State World Trade Center Relief Fund, P.O. Box 5028, Albany, New York 12205.

The hotline number for the fund is 1-800-801-8092.

"We welcome all pledges of support to the newly-established New York State World Trade Center Relief Fund, which will provide critical support for ongoing disaster relief and victim assistance efforts. The support we receive from compassionate and patriotic Americans across the nation will never be forgotten by the people of New York State, " Pataki said in a statement.

The NGA is working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on a nationwide inventory of equipment, supplies and other emergency relief assets that could aid in the recovery effort in New York and Virginia. NGA is asking governors to name a key person in each of their state emergency response agencies to compile the inventory.

Even before the second plane hit the World Trade Center last Tuesday, Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore called his state's emergency center in Richmond, triggering a series of responses that included alerting fire crews and police. As this was happening, a third hijacked plane slammed into the Pentagon in Northern Virginia.

Nearly 200 people died in the Pentagon attack alone, but the death toll might have been even higher if highly trained emergency workers had not responded so quickly.

Gilmore heads a national panel created by Congress to assess the ability for states and the federal government to respond to a terrorist threat in America. At a press conference on Monday (9/17) he said the panel's third and final report, which was to have been made public in mid-December, would be released ahead of schedule.

The new release date has not yet been decided.

Gilmore said it's clear that what's needed is a clear and comprehensive strategy that takes in the experience of states and localities. He said federal officials tend to focus only on federal issues, and often overlook state resources that could be used to fight terrorism.

Gilmore's panel is expected to recommend the creation of a central office in the White House to coordinate local responsibility and local emergency response teams. There is a nationwide network for responding to natural and manmade disasters, covering everything from hurricanes to nuclear accidents.

The proposed coordinating center would build on this foundation.

Gilmore's panel is also expected to recommend that the U.S. intelligence community share more information with state and local authorities.

Fears of a more "exotic" attack that may include unleashing biological weapons or other weapons of mass destruction on civilians has led the panel to urge strengthening emergency medical teams, hospital services and fire and law enforcement agencies.

"In the war against terrorism, state and local emergency responders are the new infantry standing on the front lines of the battle field," Gilmore told reporters.

He repeatedly stated that civil liberties would be protected. "The polling that shows people are willing to give up civil liberties I find very disturbing," Gilmore said. "We are Americans and we are the freest people in the world - it is what makes us unique," he said.

 
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