FLETC dedicates anti-terror facility
Thu, Mar 20, 2008
By EMILY STRANGER
The Brunswick News
Wayne Anderson said he thought it was some kind of explosion.
It never crossed his mind that a hijacked jetliner could be responsible for the fire and chaos that engulfed the building next door to his office on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.
"I looked outside and saw the north tower in flames," he told a crowd gathered at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center Wednesday.
The audience, made up of representatives from federal agencies and local officials, stood silently during the dedication ceremony of the center's new Counterterrorism Operations Training Facility.
A color guard made up of officers from the New York City and Port Authority of New York and New Jersey police departments present the colors for a dedication ceremony at the Federal Law Enforce-ment Training Center on Wednesday. (Michael Hall/The Brunswick News)
Anderson, a Secret Service agent, was on duty in the South Tower of the World Trade Center when the first plane hit.
A second plane hit the North Tower, and both soon collapsed in a pancake fashion. Nearly 3,000 people were killed that day in three separate attacks on the nation and in another hijacked plane that crashed near Pittsburgh.
Anderson received the U.S. Secret Service Medal of Valor for helping save civilians who were trapped inside the World Trade Center buildings.
Even now, the memory of that day haunts him, he said.
He used the eerie recollection of the attacks to magnify the importance of counterterrorism training.
The purpose of the 88,000-square-foot building on the campus at FLETC is to train federal agents in settings that will prepare them should they face a similar situation one day.
In the entrance of the building is a reminder of why the facility is necessary: a Sept. 11 memorial. Its centerpiece is an I-beam from the World Trade Center site.
The memorial is a poignant reminder to agents to stay alert.
"Time is a healer, but it can also lead to complacency," said Anderson. "We can never fall victim to complacency."
The counterterrorism facility, a former dormitory, features a variety of rooms in which agents can engage in simulation training exercises.
Several rooms look like hotel rooms; others are made to look like the inside of a federal office building. There are also rooms that mimic a courthouse and parole office.
"Agents will be trained to execute search warrants, conduct detention center operations and even handle suicide bombers," said Mark Fallon, assistant director of training at the center.
The rooms will also be used to train agents in drug trafficking, archeological resources protection and tactical training.
Several rooms have movable walls for shooting exercises.
Fallon said rooms contain equipment that can create smoke and other special effects.
Agents from all 80 organizations that train at FLETC will use the new facility.
Connie Patrick, FLETC director, said the facility is a product of desire and need.
"This is a culmination of a dream for many of our partnering agencies," Patrick said. "We didn't want to wait for another 9/11 before we started training. We went right to work to build something like this."
Brunswick Mayor Bryan Thompson, among those who attended the dedication, bowed his head in remembrance and listened to bagpipers play "Amazing Grace" after Anderson's speech.
He said the ceremony was moving.
"It's good reminder that even though we haven't had an attack since 9/11, we can't be complacent," he said.