HIGH POINT — For a prime example of how the world has changed since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, look no further than High Point Market.
You’ll see on-street parking restricted throughout the downtown showroom district. There is also an increased security presence around the city, with more uniformed High Point police officers visible, along with security personnel from other agencies who might not be as noticeable.
Then there are behind-the-scenes security preparations that go into every Market that organizers don’t talk about.
“I can assure you that a lot of things that were put in place, many of those are still in place now,” said Tom Conley, president and CEO of the High Point Market Authority. “We are still keeping our vigil. We’ve had some scares over the years. There’s just a lot of things we do behind the scenes and we feel that, if we ever let our guard down, then sure as heck, something’s going to happen. So we are very dedicated to it.”
The downtown parking restrictions are one of the most noticeable legacies of 9/11. The days of Market attendees and others being able to park on streets next to showrooms are over.
“We just don’t allow larger vehicles to just park anywhere that they want to,” said Capt. Matt Truitt of the High Point Police Department. “It’s just too dangerous nowadays to have access like that, where you have approximately 75,000 extra people in a confined area.”
This principle also applies to caterers and delivery trucks that show up late at Market, which are required to undergo inspections, Conley said.
“It’s not just the police. It’s the FBI, county, state — we rent bomb dogs from the county. We share that cost with IMC,” he said, referring to International Market Centers, which owns a majority of Market showroom space.
Truitt said several federal, state and local agencies coordinate the planning for Market.
“That way we will all be on the same page in the event of whatever the emergency may be or whatever the situation may be,” he said. “We have detectives that are cross-sworn with the FBI, DEA, U.S. marshals. So everyone works hand-in-hand now where you have that free-flowing information.”
On- and off-duty officers, plus firefighters and Guilford County EMS personnel make for a highly visible presence in the market district.
“When you look at those employed by the city during Market and those hired directly by showrooms that officers are asked to work, it’s approximately 90 extra officers that are assigned to the furniture market,” Truitt said. “That’s not including the ones actually out on patrol and assigned to the streets that day.”
The city, the market authority and others have been operating under these protocols for 20 years now.
The first time was just a few weeks after 9/11, and the market authority, which was formed earlier in 2001, hastily put together new security measures such as having FBI and federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents assigned to Market.
Attendance, especially from international buyers, was down at the start of the first Market after 9/11 but rebounded as the days went on, organizers reported at the time.
Airports have also seen significant security changes in the wake of the attacks, with the creation of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and its Transportation Security Administration that took over airport security. Before 9/11, airport security was handled through the airlines and airports themselves.
For Market in the near term, Conley said, the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan poses another complicating factor amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“I think at least for the next couple of years, there will be heightened security because of the Afghanistan situation,” he said. “We can’t let our guard down from a security standpoint in the name of getting product that has been delayed for weeks or months because of the supply chain issue caused by COVID.”
email@example.com | 336-888-3531