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Search slows traffic to NAS Meridian main gate

By Staff
TOP ALERT Guards, under the highest level of military security, search cars entering Naval Air Station Meridian on Wednesday. Civilian policeman Bruce Walker was one armed guard securing the base. Photo by Marianne Todd/The Meridian Star
By Marianne Todd/The Meridian Star
Sept. 13, 2001
Traffic backed up more than 2 miles Wednesday and some Naval Air Station Meridian employees waited up to three hours to pass through a strict search point at the base's main gate.
Armed and unarmed guards waved cars through the main gate one-by-one, while Lauderdale County sheriff's deputies diverted non-base traffic from the entrance road. The search procedures were thorough, as guards checked beneath cars with mirrors, opened trunks and hatchbacks and searched under car seats.
Behind the main gate, a sign flashed the red letters "Force protection Delta in effect."
Lauderdale County Sgt. Frankie Springer said he was dispatched to the area around 10 a.m. Wednesday.
Springer said at one point traffic was backed up more than 2 miles.
Security at military bases nationwide increased dramatically on Wednesday, one day after terrorists attacked New York City and Washington. Meridian was no exception.
Taffic thins
Just before noon Wednesday, Lauderdale County Sheriff's Deputy Jim Bristow counted 147 cars outside the main gate of NAS Meridian, a signal that the line was shortening. While Bristow worked the heavy traffic, his wife, Thessie Bristow, waited in line.
Julia Murray, who works at the Navy Exchange, said she was worried about being late for work until she saw her supervisor, Thessie Bristow, ahead of her in traffic.
Both Murray and Bristow had their cars searched at the main gate, a step they didn't mind in the wake of Tuesday's terrorist attacks.
Both employees were two of hundreds who were told to go home Tuesday following the terrorist attack.
Different scene
Back in Meridian, at the main gate to the Air National Guard base, traffic flowed more smoothly.
Even Pope, who is known well by main gate personnel, wasn't immune to "Threat Condition Delta," the highest measure of military security.
Before entering the base Wednesday morning, Pope was identified by Meridian police, who directed him to proceed to the main gate.
Marianne Todd is a staff writer for the Meridian Star. Call her at 693-1551, ext. 3236, or e-mail her at mtodd@themeridianstar.com.