Doors to 1st floor of state Capitol opened for first time since 9/11

MADISON (WITI) -- The first floor doors at the state Capitol were opened on Monday, January 13th -- after being locked for 12 years following the terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001.

"On September 11, we had gates out at the street level where not even cars could come for that period of time," Secretary of Administration Mike Huebsch said.

On Monday, January 13th, for the first time in 12 years, Huebsch stood atop the state Capitol's grand staircase in front of the door looking out on East Washington Avenue -- one of four first floor entrances that have been closed since the terrorist attacks on September 11th.

"I was here, I was in the legislature when we were attacked on 9/11, and all of the doors were closed," Huebsch said.

In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, worries about the Capitol as a potential target led officials to limit public entrances and increase security.

"Eventually that faded away and the doors were opened again and people were let in, but the first floor doors were never opened," Huebsch said.

For 12 years the doors were locked, and reopening them was never a high priority among all the other issues at the Capitol -- but Huebsch always wanted to reopen them, and on Monday, after getting the okay from security, he did.

"Everyone now has the opportunity to walk through and have open doors in every area of the government," Huebsch said.

Several people on the Capitol grounds Monday were unaware of the change.

"I think that's kind of ridiculous that they had been locked that long, and I'm not sure what that's supposed to mean," Catherine Erhard said.

"As the Capitol building, it's sort of the ultimate public building in the state. It really ought to be open to the public in an easy access way," Anne Lies said.

Going forward, the public will be able to use the grand staircase and enter the state Capitol on the first floor. State officials say it's both a symbolic and literal gesture of open government.