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South Florida government, legal and business leaders tried to get things back to normal Wednesday, after reeling from Tuesday’s terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan and the Pentagon outside of Washington, D.C. As if work and life will ever return to the “normal” they knew until a minute before the attacks began. Most Florida state and county government buildings, law firms and other offices were open, although federal courts and offices remained closed. All operated in the shadow of the tragedy as increased security was put into place at public buildings and law firms determined whether the attacks affected cases and offered assistance to colleagues. Workers everywhere, some with nerves jangled by inexplicable bomb threats at area office buildings, sought information on colleagues and loved ones. All while the terror’s tentacles crept into South Florida as government agents served warrants against possible conspirators in Broward County and the Daytona Beach area. “Many firms in South Florida have both personal and professional relationships to the New York metropolitan area that have had a direct bearing on some of us here,” said Gabriel Imperato, managing partner of the Fort Lauderdale office of Broad and Cassel. “We have partners and associates who have family members who live, work, in or near the World Trade Center. As far as I know, those people have survived.” Broad and Cassel fielded some requests for representation after the attack to represent individuals of Arab ethnicity who have been contacted by federal authorities for questioning. Imperato wouldn’t say whether the firm would accept the clients. Serge Martin, an attorney in the Miami office of Steel Hector & Davis, was relieved to know that friends and associates at national firm Sidley Austin Brown & Wood’s office in the World Trade Center had escaped the holocaust. The news was good for others, as well. Phillipa Williams, an aide to Palm Beach County Commissioners Warren Newell, learned that her brother, Gordon, was injured but made it down from the 87th floor of Tower One at the World Trade Center. Likewise, Patricia Alemparte Glass, a paralegal with Ruden McClosky Smith Schuster & Russell in Fort Lauderdale, got word of her brother John, who was installing a computer on the 42nd floor of Tower Two. John Alemparte left a brief voice mail for her at about 9:25 a.m. Tuesday: “You’re going to hear about an accident, but I’m OK.” Four Boca Raton, Fla.-based employees of Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, the World Trade Center’s largest tenant occupying 50 floors, were able to flee the building. Company staff in Fort Lauderdale, said one employee, spent Wednesday calling clients to assure them that no financial information was lost. Holland & Knight used its Web site to provide emergency information to its staff around the world. The firm’s 130-lawyer office at 195 Broadway is across from the World Trade Center. Spokeswoman Karen Schoening said all but 10 staff members were accounted for. Those 10 were no doubt OK, she said, but couldn’t be reached because of computer and telephone problems. Meanwhile, Holland & Knight is writing letters to the managing directors of some two dozen law firms that were in the Twin Towers, offering any help that is needed. Said securities lawyer Mark F. Raymond, name partner with Tew Cardenas Rebak Kellogg Lehman DeMaria Tague Raymond & Levine in Miami: “We are trying to find out information about our peers. Whether they were adversaries or not, they are humans with families.” The attacks have impacted the firm’s business. “Things are certainly at a slower pace,” Raymond said. “I was in the middle of settlement discussions of a major securities case involving numerous customers of a brokerage firm. We have voluntarily suspended discussions.” State and county government and judicial functions in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties lurched back to normal after Tuesday’s uncertainty. All Miami-Dade county government offices were open, but Metro-Dade police cars lined the perimeter of county hall, the Stephen P. Clark Center. Police limited access to the building’s lobby, funneling people through a couple of entrances to perform thorough ID checks. County Manager Steve Shiver canceled all of his meetings for the day, except for those with his staff and the mayor’s office but stressed that county government is running on all gears. “We are back to normal as normal can be in the wake of such tragic events,” Shiver said. In Broward County, Clerk of the Courts Howard Forman said activity was normal, sort of, though a patrol car was newly stationed outside the building. Later in the day, police blocked off Fort Lauderdale’s Southeast Sixth Street, which fronts the main entrances of the Broward County Courthouse. And the Broward County Commission met to discuss whether to make the move permanent. “Everyone’s in a daze,” Forman said. “There seems to be less people in the building today.” At the Palm Beach County Courthouse, security remained somewhat high — more personnel than usual at metal detectors, and more sheriff’s deputies outside the facility. “I think it gives people a certain comfort level,” said Palm Beach Sheriff’s Capt. Terry Rowe, who is in charge of court services. Miami Beach government also proceeded as usual, said City Manager George Gonzalez, but for heightened police security near area schools and synagogues. “We did not feel it was necessary to shut anything down or evacuate,” Gonzalez said. But there was little comfort in downtown Miami, where the Miami Center adjacent to the Hotel Intercontinental was the target of a bomb scare at about 9:15 a.m. “Every wacko is calling in threats to buildings in downtown Miami,” Metro-Dade Police officer Joe Deprado told a crowd outside the center. The building was not evacuated, but some offices told employees to leave. “I was coming to work and saw the police in the lobby,” said Vivian Niebla, a product liability defense attorney with Shook Hardy & Bacon. “Against my better judgment I went upstairs, and then they started to evacuate. Needless to say, I haven’t done a thing today. I am nervous about going back.” In Broward, about 40 suburban and downtown office buildings owned by Stiles Corp. resumed normal operations Wednesday morning, after a day-long “lock-down” Tuesday, with increased security guards and visitor monitoring. “We all know how horrific this was,” said Tom Kates, president of Stiles Realty Co., a subsidiary of Stiles Corp., adding that he does not expect long-term changes in security plans. “As Americans, we aren’t going to let this change our lifestyle.” But the best summary of sentiment on the day after might be at the end of a voice-mail greeting left Wednesday by Thomas Loffredo, a partner at Holland & Knight’s office in Fort Lauderdale. It said: “God bless America.” Review staff writers Frank Alvarado, Melanie Bell, Dan Christensen, Julie Kay, Larry Keller, Adam Miller, Susan R. Miller, Terry Sheridan and Carol Wright contributed to this report, which was written by Neil Reisner.

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