• Cecily Kelly
  • Job: Executive Director, Coronado Safe Foundation
  • Residence: Coronado
  • Married, two children, Amanda and Colby

“Our alarm went off. Peter Jennings was on the radio in place of the normal radio talk-show host. We immediately got up and turned on the TV in time to watch the second plane go into the tower. When the second plane went in, we realized it was purposeful. I had two friends who were killed.”

“Close friends?”

“One was the pilot of the plane that went into the Pentagon. He was a college classmate of my husband’s.”

“Did you know he was flying that plane?”

“No. Not until later, when we saw some of Chip’s family members on television [Charles Burlingame, captain, American Airlines Flight 77].”

“Who was the other friend?”

“He was at work at his desk in the Pentagon. He was an Army general [Lt. General Timothy J. Maude, deputy chief of staff for personnel, United States Army]. My husband is retired Navy, so we know lots of people in the Pentagon.”

“Staggering that you knew two people who died that day. One friend was pilot of the plane that killed the other.” All is quiet. One heartbeat. Two heartbeats. “When did you hear about your Pentagon friend?”

“A few days later, when the list came out.”

The hijacked Boeing 757 killed 189 people, 125 at the Pentagon and 64 on board the airplane. “Did you know at the moment the airliner struck the Pentagon that your friends might be killed?”

“No. But we knew that there was a chance we would know someone.”

Biological weapons are defined as any infectious agent, such as a bacterium or virus, that is used intentionally to inflict harm upon others. What follows is a short list of biological agents available to terrorists. Anthrax, cryptococcosis, Escherichia coli, Haemophilus influenzae, brucellosis (undulant fever), coccidioidomycosis (San Joaquin Valley or desert fever), psittacosis (parrot fever), tularemia (rabbit fever), malaria, cholera, typhoid, bubonic plague, cobra venom, shellfish toxin, botulinal toxin, saxitoxin, ricin, smallpox, Shigella flexneri, Shigella dysenteriae, salmonella, Staphylococcus enterotoxin B, hemorrhagic fever, Venezuelan equine encephalitis, Histoplasma capsulatum, pneumonic plague, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, dengue fever, Rift Valley fever, diphtheria, melioidosis, glanders, tuberculosis, infectious hepatitis, encephalitis, blastomycosis, nocardiosis, yellow fever, typhus, tricothecene mycotoxin, aflatoxin, and Q fever. This list ignores genetically engineered agents, which are far more potent.

“Have you taken any steps to protect yourself in case there is an attack in San Diego?”

“I have an earthquake kit. I made sure it’s up to date, that nothing has expired.”

“Anything else?”

“I have two daughters who are away at college. There was an urge that they come home. One daughter will be commissioned as an Air Force officer in May. So of course I’m concerned about what she’ll be doing in the Air Force.”

“Is she learning to fly?”

“She won’t be a pilot. She’ll be in mass communications. She may end up flying, but she won’t be the pilot.”

“We had hoped that the $1 million reward would encourage many more citizens to help. We have not received as many tips or leads as we would like.” FBI director Robert Mueller, lamenting that there were still no leads in the government’s anthrax investigation.

“How are you dealing with the anthrax attacks?”

“That does concern me. In my job, I get mail from Washington, D.C., nearly every day. Makes me think, ‘Hmmm, do I want to open this or not?’

“I was a little annoyed with my congressperson, who sent us mail from the Congressional post office in Washington to tell us what Congress was doing to prevent the spread of anthrax. I thought, ‘You might be spreading anthrax by sending this letter to me.’ My office is considering microwaving the mail.”

“I’m afraid that there will eventually be a bioterrorism attack — it’s just a question of when. After September 11th, the temptation to use weapons of mass destruction will become more and more attractive. The technology is a surmountable problem. It is not easy, but it is not that hard.” Dr. Donald Henderson, director of the Center for Civilian Biodefense Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

“How did September 11th affect you?”

“In the beginning, it made me very angry. It made me frustrated that there wasn’t something I could do right away. I’m pleased with the way President Bush is handling things so far. I thought it was wonderful when he threw the first pitch in Yankee Stadium during the World Series. He stood on the pitcher’s mound, by himself, and threw a fastball over the plate. He didn’t walk five feet in front of the mound and toss the ball underhanded. He went out there and threw it and said, ‘Hey, we’re going on.’ I liked that.”

“People I’ve talked to have said, in one way or another, they felt a vast sadness because America was no longer safe. Do you share that feeling?”

“I suppose, to a certain extent. On some level, we knew that a day like this was coming because we lived overseas several times.”

“When you think ahead 12 months, what frightens you the most?”

“The first concern is the economy.” Kelly pauses. “I’m worried there will be more attacks. I’m flying into Reagan Airport [Washington, D.C.] next month, and I’m certain I will be watching everyone who stands up on that plane. I’m hoping the country can remain united and focused on the means to capture the terrorists.”

“How long have you been living in Coronado?”

“Seven years.”

“You’ve talked to your neighbors about this?”

“Uh-huh.”

“What do they tell you?”

“Coronado is a small town. People who don’t look like they belong might be stopped and questioned. Last year we had 180 trick-or-treaters for Halloween. This year we had 10. If I come home and find a parcel on my porch, I’m going to look at it very carefully. People look for cars that are places they shouldn’t be, those kinds of things. I think everyone is more vigilant.”

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