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GlobeSt.com reporters Jennifer Brenner Andrade, Tim Green and D.J. Burrough contributed to this report

DALLAS-GlobeSt.com has learned the Department of Defense circulated a memo in the past 30 days in the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex warning key institutions to bar building access to individuals or groups posing as art dealers. It’s commonplace practice for hucksters to set up shop in lobbies of high-traffic office buildings.

The inside federal source says it was an information-gathering tact lodged at key financial institutions and some churches, oft a favorite target of terrorists on the international front. Word of the memo surfaced at a closed-door meeting Tuesday held in the DFW metroplex as emergency crews in New York City and Washington, DC grappled with the reality of Tuesday’s deadly dual terrorist attacks.

The source tells GlobeSt.com that the memo came in the same month that the GAO identified an inordinate number of workers of Middle Eastern origin working in baggage, supervisory positions and support levels at major US airports. By Tuesday night, it was confirmed hijackers had in fact secreted knives on board the jets.

The Southwestern US, like the rest of the nation, sprung into high alert status at commercial buildings, airports, municipal buildings and popular public gathering spots. The Dallas-Ft. Worth region is home to one of the nation’s leading anti-terrorist training programs. And, Arlington,TX ironically was the home base for one of the convicted terrorists of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

Dallas and Ft. Worth municipal buildings, the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas and many building owners remained up and running during the national crisis, but all reported beefing up security. The region’s three major airports, like the rest of the nation, were kept in a lockdown and high state of alert, with canine teams in place at DFW International. Dallas-based Greyhound shut down all terminals within a one mile radius of any federal building in the nation, according to reports.

Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk at an afternoon press conference asked “for patience and understanding in the coming days and weeks as we increase security measures at our airports and similar facilities.” Ft. Worth Mayor Kenneth Barr ruled out “credible threats at the local level,” but did ante up fire and police protection to full alert. “Emergency services are in place and there is no reason to believe Ft. Worth faces any special concern,” he said. The official word from the Dallas Fed is its discount window will be open to provide liquidity to financial markets, as needed.

A contact for Dallas-based Trammell Crow Co. says 40 to 50 of 170 offices nationwide were shut down, including its homeport. Ft. Worth-based Crescent Real Estate Equities Co. left the decision to close rest with tenants and property managers, with the exception of its 530,000-sf Washington Harbor in the Washington, DC suburb of Georgetown where doors were locked and occupants sent home. Crescent also directed security personnel at all buildings to monitor incoming packages, said a company contact.

As the nation listened to the unfolding horror, Crescent was hurriedly contacting key executives who had flown to Canyon Ranch in the Berkshires for Monday’s board meeting. Some were still in Massachusetts when the attacks occurred while others had flown to New York City. The Crescent contact told GlobeSt.com that all executives are safe. “We are very blessed in that respect,” she said.

Austin and the seat of Texas state government were on alert with heightened security as well. “It just looks like kind of a slow day” in the city’s CBD, Charlie Betts, executive of the Downtown Austin Alliance, tells GlobeSt.com. “I think everybody’s just sticking close to the TV” to follow reports. Betts was unaware of any closed buildings although a city contact said she’d heard many downtown businesses sent workers home.

The city opened its emergency response center as a precaution. Seven flights were diverted to Austin Bergstrom International Airport and then it too shut down. The passengers were bused to seven hotels.

The state capitol remained open, but general traffic to the building was shut off, says Tela Mange of the Texas Department of Public Safety. In the multi-building capital complex, each state agency made its own call. Outside the CBD, Highland Mall in the city’s northeast submarket and Lakeline Mall in far northwest Austin closed.

Houston Mayor Lee Brown and the Houston FBI office conducted a security assessment, but didn’t issue any serious warnings for the area. In a press conference, Brown said no evacuations were planned. Some businesses and schools did shut down early. “We have advised employers to use their discretion,” says Brown. “We will do the same thing in city government.”

According to published reports, Hines closed Transco Tower, one of Houston’s tallest buildings in the Galleria area. Other downtown shutdowns were reported at the Houston World Trade Center at 1200 Smith, Williams Tower, Wells Fargo building, Chevron building, Interfirst Tower, Enron Corp.’s offices, Reliant Energy’s offices, Chase Tower, Pennzoil Place, One Shell Plaza, Texaco Heritage Plaza and Johnson Space Center.

The Port of Houston stayed open under heightened security while refineries were scaled back to skeleton crews. A Houston Port source says the Coast Guard, Harris County law enforcement and Port police and contract security beefed up security to monitor vessels of all types and vehicular traffic surrounding the Houston ship channel. The source also confirmed a special emergency phone number was set up to report emergencies and unusual activity. The number was provided to laborers, stevedores and other Port personnel.

In Phoenix, a number of downtown buildings were closed after news of the dual attacks surfaced. Employers at the 23-story Bank of America Tower and the 40-story Bank One building, the tallest tower in the Valley, told employees that they could go home if they felt uncomfortable about staying in their offices. Phoenix City Hall remained open, but employees were given the option to leave.

Coupled with Sky Harbor International Airport’s shutdown, officials increased security and sent all non-essential personal home at the Palo Verde Nuclear Generation Station just west of the Valley. Also, traffic along Arizona Highway 93 was not allowed to travel over Hoover Dam in the northwestern corner of the state.

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