Subdued 9/11 remembrances reflect Boston’s invisible scars
BOSTON — Tucked in a grove of ginkgo trees, a glass cube at Logan International Airport pays tribute to those lost aboard the two jetliners that took off from Boston and were hijacked by terrorists who flew them into the World Trade Center towers.
But it’s mostly silent homage. The memorial etched with the names of those who perished aboard American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175 draws few visitors. And the airport’s other nods to its role in the tragedy — American flags that fly above the jetways at the gates where the flights departed — go mostly unnoticed and unremarked.
It’s reflective of the city’s uneasy ties to the transcendent events of Sept. 11, 2001.
“It still feels surreal in a way, because it was just horrifying beyond anyone’s ability to grasp,” said Virginia Buckingham, who was CEO of the Massachusetts Port Authority, which operates Logan, on 9/11.
Five terrorists smuggled box cutters aboard American Flight 11 at Logan. Five others did the same with United Flight 175 at another terminal. “None of the checkpoint supervisors recalled the hijackers or reported anything suspicious regarding their screening,” the government’s 9/11 Commission said in its report.
On the day of the attacks, Buckingham was preparing to fly to Washington to meet with the Federal Aviation Administration about a new runway at Logan when she got a six-word message that still chills her: “Two planes are off the radar.”
Six weeks after the attacks, then-Gov. Jane Swift pushed Buckingham to resign. Buckingham, who wrote a haunting 2020 memoir, “On My Watch,” said it all nearly broke her — and she’s only recently come around to the idea that it wasn’t her fault.
“I have PTSD, both from the trauma of seeing what unfolded like all of us had to, but also being blamed for it caused terrible trauma, bad dreams, depression,” she said. “I was held personally accountable for the deaths of thousands … It’s been a long road back, and it’s nothing compared to what the families have gone through.”
Underscoring Boston’s uneasy attempts to distance itself from its role in the attacks, subdued 20th anniversary remembrances are planned at the airport on Saturday, Sept. 11.
Massport spokesperson Jennifer Mehigan said nothing is planned apart from the usual TSA honor guards stationed at the airport’s main checkpoints in the morning. American and United will have private ceremonies.
The agency was thrust into exhaustive legal battles after the developer of the World Trade Center sued it, American and United, claiming porous security at Logan ultimately was to blame for the toppling of the towers. It didn’t end until 2017, when insurers for the two airlines agreed to pay $95 million to World Trade Center Properties to close the case.
Massport, also named as a defendant in dozens of wrongful death lawsuits brought by families of 9/11 victims, maintained it had no legal responsibility for the attacks because it didn’t control security checkpoints. Ultimately, a federal judge agreed.
Twenty years on, there is little to suggest that Boston has truly come to terms with its supporting role in the attacks.
Although a monument to victims in Boston Public Garden gets traffic, dozens of the 2,997 memorial flags planted there ahead of Saturday’s anniversary were uprooted by vandals overnight.
Logan’s atmospheric memorial, meanwhile, is rarely visited. On a recent weekday visit, an Associated Press photographer saw only two people enter the cube during a three-hour stay. That’s in sharp contrast to the frequently crowded memorial downtown to victims of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, which killed three spectators, wounded more than 260 others and spawned the slogan “Boston Strong.”
“I’m struck by the amnesia that’s set in,” said James Carroll, a former priest and retired Boston Globe columnist. “All we’re left with is the mythology of 9/11. I would have expected better of Boston.”
As the 20th anniversary approaches, the most poignant Boston-centric commemoration is a one-man operation. Retired flight attendant Paul Veneto, 62, a regular on United Flight 175’s Boston to Los Angeles route who had taken 9/11 off, is pushing an airline beverage cart from Boston to New York City to honor the pilots and fellow crew members who died in the attacks.
“I turned my life around to be able to recognize these guys who were never recognized,” said the Braintree, Massachusetts, resident, whose survivor’s guilt triggered a 15-year prescription drug addiction.
Buckingham likens her own life to a piece of sea glass.
“It’s been broken apart and is nothing like it used to be. But that doesn’t mean it’s not beautiful, doesn’t mean it’s not valuable,” she said. “If you go through something very, very painful, you’re going to carry that pain with you. You’re going to be changed forever.”
Police planning to reinstall Capitol fence ahead of rally
WASHINGTON — Law enforcement officials concerned by the prospect for violence at a rally in the nation’s capital next week are planning to reinstall protective fencing that surrounded the U.S. Capitol for months after the Jan. 6 insurrection, according to a person familiar with the discussions.
Though no specific measures have been announced, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi hinted during her weekly press conference Wednesday at extra safety precautions for the Sept. 18 rally by saying: “We intend to have the integrity of the Capitol be intact.” Briefings for lawmakers, including congressional leaders, are expected in coming days.
A security plan that is being finalized calls for a fenced perimeter on the streets immediately surrounding the Capitol building and the Supreme Court, though not around the congressional office buildings nearby, said the person, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity ahead of an official announcement.
The Capitol Police formally requested the fence to the board that oversees it, and it is likely to be approved, according to a House Democratic aide who spoke on condition of anonymity to talk about private discussions.
Police continue to track intelligence indicating far-right extremist groups like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers are planning to attend next week’s rally, which is designed to demand “justice” for the hundreds of people who have been charged in connection with January’s insurrection. Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio, however, has said he doesn’t expect his membership to attend.
On Wednesday, meanwhile, the FBI released new information in hopes of catching the person suspected of leaving behind two pipe bombs on Capitol Hill the night before the riot, one of the enduring, unsolved mysteries of that chaotic week.
The potential presence of the extremist groups at next week’s event is concerning because, while members and associates of Oath Keepers and Proud Boys make up just a fraction of the nearly 600 people who have been charged so far in the riot, they are facing some of the most serious charges brought.
Those charges include allegations that they conspired to block the certification of Biden’s victory. Several Oath Keepers have pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges and are cooperating with investigators in the case against their fellow extremists, who authorities say came to Washington ready for violence and willing to do whatever it took to stop the certification of the Electoral College vote.
The fence had been a stark symbol of the fear many in the Capitol felt after the mob pushed its way past overwhelmed police officers, broke through windows and doors and ransacked the Capitol as Congress was voting to certify Joe Biden’s electoral win.
The planned Sept. 18 rally comes as a jittery Washington has seen a series of troubling one-off incidents — including, most recently, a man who parked a pickup truck near the Library of Congress and said he had a bomb and detonator.
Perhaps the most concerning: A series of unexploded pipe bombs placed near the Capitol on Jan. 5 remain unexplained and no suspect has been charged.
The FBI released a new video of that suspect on Wednesday and a digital map showing the person circling the offices of the Democratic and Republican national committees, where the bombs were placed. The FBI also said, for the first time, that agents believe the suspect is not from the Washington area but may have been “operating” out of a location near the Capitol.
“Based upon the suspect’s route of travel to the DNC and from the DNC to the RNC, and the manner in which the suspect carries the backpack after placing the pipe bomb at the DNC, the FBI believes the suspect had a location in the vicinity of Folger Park from which the person was operating,” the FBI said in a news release. “Reviews of the suspect’s behavior in video footage and interviews with residents in the Capitol Hill neighborhood have led the FBI to believe the suspect is not from the area.”
Some lawmakers and top union officials were expected to be briefed on the fence plan later this week and another more expansive briefing for the leaders of the House and Senate was planned for Monday.
On Capitol Hill, the politics around fencing in the iconic building and its grounds proved challenging for lawmakers after the January insurrection. Many said they disliked closing off access, even as they acknowledged the increased level of security it provided. The fencing finally came down with a promise to re-erect it if necessary. But the question of what deserves fencing is tricky.
In an interview Wednesday, the district’s Democratic representative, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, said she had not yet been briefed on the security plans, but understood if the fence needs to be reinstalled as a precaution ahead of the upcoming rally.
“I would hope that we wouldn’t have to fence in the Capitol every time there’s a demonstration,” Norton said. But she added, “If they go with the fence, I’m not going to criticize them.”
Norton suggested that in the aftermath of Jan. 6 there would be more robust security preparations ahead of this rally out of an abundance of caution — even though it is scheduled for a Saturday before the House returns to session, a typically sleepy summertime afternoon when few lawmakers or staff would be at work.
“I wouldn’t be surprised to see the fence go up,” she said. “The preparations are certainly going to be more than they were on Jan. 6.”
Associated Press writers Colleen Long, Nomaan Merchant and Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report.
Mindy, now a tropical depression, dumps rain over Georgia
VALDOSTA, Ga. — Rain was pouring down on southeast Georgia and coastal South Carolina as Mindy, now a tropical depression, made its way across the state Thursday morning.
The storm made landfall in St. Vincent Island, Florida, on Wednesday night. Mindy was expected to cause as much as 6 inches (15 centimeters) of rainfall across the Florida Panhandle and portions of southern Georgia and South Carolina through Thursday morning, the National Hurricane Center said. Scattered flash, urban, and small-stream floods were possible.
The storm on Thursday morning was about 80 miles (125 kilometers) south southeast of Valdosta, Georgia, and moving northeast at 20 mph (31 kmh) with maximum sustained winds of 35 mph (55 kph), forecasters said.
Florida’s Big Bend area was already saturated from rain dumped by Hurricanes Elsa and Ida. Some residents in low-lying Dixie County have had to move out of their homes, which were flooded before Mindy brought more rain.
Diane Van Hook has been living at a hotel for weeks because her property is flooded and there’s no electricity in her home.
“There’s no hope of going home anytime soon because of how deep the water is,” Van Hook told WGFL-TV in Gainesville on Wednesday. “There’s no place for us to even walk you know. I had to remove my horse from the property, and I lost my chickens.”
Mandy Lemmermen, spokesperson for the county’s emergency management office, told the television station that as the water recedes in some areas, it rises in others.
“Now we’re seeing where people who weren’t flooded a week or two ago are now flooded as the water moves throughout the county,” she said, adding that the area expected between 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10 centimeters) of rain from Mindy.
A slower east-northeastward motion is forecast Thursday night through Saturday. The center of Mindy was expected to move across southeastern Georgia Thursday morning, and over the western Atlantic by later in the day. Little change in strength was forecast through Thursday night. Gradual weakening is expected on Friday and Mindy is forecast to become a remnant low by Saturday.
The tropical storm warning in effect from Mexico Beach, Florida, to the Steinhatchee River was canceled. That area is about 300 miles (500 kilometers) east of southern Louisiana, where Hurricane Ida made landfall late last month. The region is still recovering from the deadly and destructive Category 4 storm.
Mindy is the 13th-named storm of what has been another busy Atlantic hurricane season. According to a tweet from Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach, the average date for the 13th-named storm from 1991-2020 was Oct. 24.
Trump praises Gen. Robert E. Lee after Confederate statue removed in Richmond, Va.
He’s a “genius” who would’ve conquered Afghanistan if only he had the chance.
Former President Trump isn’t talking up the military skills of Gen. George Patton or perhaps Gen. Colin Powell.
Nope, the #MAGA man was waxing poetically about pro-slavery Gen. Robert E. Lee after the Confederate leader’s statue was taken down in Richmond, Virginia.
Trump late Wednesday called Lee, who led the South’s army in the Civil War, “the greatest strategist of them all” and “perhaps the greatest unifying force after the war was over.”
He even mused that Lee could’ve whacked the Taliban, a task that Trump himself failed to carry out during four years in the White House.
“If only we had Robert E. Lee to command our troops in Afghanistan, that disaster would have ended in a complete and total victory many years ago,” Trump said.
Crowds cheered as the iconic statue was removed from its base in a square on Richmond’s Monument Ave. Authorities pulled down the memorial as a symbol of racism, slavery and hatred after winning a long court battle.
Trump and many of his white nationalist supporters have watched in dismay in recent years as racial justice advocates successfully push to remove Confederate statues in cities nationwide.
Most of the statues were erected during the Jim Crow era when the Ku Klux Klan fanned a wave of nostalgic racist propaganda about slavery and the Civil War.
The city of Charlottesville recently also pulled down a statue of Lee that was the focus of an infamous white nationalist rally in 2017 in which a far right-wing protester drove into a crowd of counter-demonstrators, killing one woman.
Trump, who was president at the time, infamously later said there were “very good people on both sides” of the violence.
“Our culture is being destroyed and our history and heritage, both good and bad, are being extinguished by the Radical Left,” Trump wrote in an email message. “We can’t let that happen!”
AP source: Biden requiring federal workers to get COVID shot
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Thursday is toughening COVID-19 vaccine requirements for federal workers and contractors as he aims to boost vaccinations and curb the surging delta variant that is killing thousands each week and jeopardizing the nation’s economic recovery.
Just weeks after he mandated federal workers get a shot or face rigorous testing and masking protocols, Biden will sign a new executive order to require vaccination for employees of the executive branch and contractors who do business with the federal government, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The word comes ahead of the president’s speech Thursday afternoon outlining a six-pronged plan to address the latest rise in coronavirus cases and the stagnating pace of COVID-19 shots.
It wasn’t immediately clear if Biden’s order includes exceptions for workers or contractors seeking religious or medical exemptions from vaccination. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss Biden’s plans before they were publicly released.
Biden is also expected to outline plans to increase virus testing in schools, in an effort to keep them open safely, amid other measures to show that his administration is working to tackle the alarming rise in COVID-19 cases, which Biden has blamed for last month’s weaker-than-expected jobs report. He’s warned the surge could further imperil the nation’s economy as some pandemic safety net protections expire.
Biden has encouraged COVID-19 vaccine requirements in settings like schools, workplaces and university campuses, and the White House hopes the strengthened federal mandate will inspire more businesses to follow suit.
The Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Health and Human Services, the Indian Health Service, and the National Institute of Health have previously announced vaccine requirements for much of their staffs, and the Pentagon moved last month to require all servicemembers to get vaccinated.
More than 208 million Americans have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 177 million are fully vaccinated, but confirmed cases of the virus have shot up in recent weeks to an average of about 140,000 per day with on average about 1,000 Americans dying from the virus daily, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Most of the spread — and the vast majority of severe illness and death — is occurring among those not yet fully vaccinated against the virus. So-called breakthrough infections in vaccinated people occur, but tend to be far less dangerous.
Federal officials are moving ahead with plans to begin administering booster shots of the mRNA vaccines to bolster protection against the more transmissible delta variant of the virus. Last month Biden announced plans to make them available beginning on Sept. 20, but only the Pfizer vaccine will likely have received regulatory approval for a third dose by that time. Federal regulators are seeking additional data from Moderna that will likely delay its booster approval until October.
Officials are aiming to administer the booster shots about eight months after the second dose of the two-dose vaccines.
North Macedonia: Fire in COVID-19 field hospital kills 14
SKOPJE, North Macedonia — North Macedonia’s government declared three days of mourning Thursday following a deadly overnight fire in a COVID-19 field hospital that killed 14 people and injured several others.
The blaze broke out late Wednesday in the western city of Tetovo, where the unit had been set up following a recent spike in infections in the region that left local hospitals full.
The main prosecutor’s office in the capital, Skopje, said 14 people were killed. There were no medical personnel among them, and all were believed to be COVID-19 patients, although it was not clear whether there might have been some relatives among the casualties.
The prosecutor’s office ordered forensic experts to identify the remains, with the process expected to take longer than usual due to special COVID-19 protocols required. About a dozen people were injured, though the exact figure wasn’t immediately available.
“It is a tragedy that I can’t even explain,” said local resident Idriz Brahimi. “Those were sick people who couldn’t get out. It is a huge catastrophe.”
After an emergency meeting on the fire, the government ordered national flags to be lowered to half-staff for three days and all sports and cultural events and celebrations to be cancelled until Saturday.
The cause of the fire, which raced through the wooden paneled structure, was not immediately determined, although it was believed to have been an accident, potentially connected to the facility’s oxygen supply.
President Stevo Pendarovski said during a visit to Tetovo that the investigation would be completed within five days, and that the cause “was not deliberate arson.”
Five prosecutors from Tetovo and Skopje are working on the investigation. Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said in a Facebook post the blaze followed an explosion at the site. There was speculation that the blast was linked to oxygen supplies.
“We saw the explosion and when we came here everything was in flames,” said local resident Nexhmedin Haliti. “Firefighters arrived and started to put the fire out, it lasted for 15-20 minutes. Everything burnt out.”
Fires in COVID-19 hospitals or wards have cost dozens of lives in other countries.
In July, a fire that swept through a COVID-19 ward in a hospital in Iraq’s Nasiriyah killed 92, and is believed to have been started either by a short-circuit or an oxygen cylinder explosion. In April, at least 82 people — many of them COVID-19 patients or their relatives — died in a fire at a Baghdad hospital that broke out when an oxygen tank exploded. Iraq’s health minister resigned over the disaster.
In Romania, two deadly hospital fires within a three-month period raised concerns about the country’s ageing and overstretched healthcare system.
Last November, 10 died in a fire in an intensive care unit for COVID-19 patients in the northern Romanian town of Piatra Neamt. Then in January, another blaze engulfed a ward at Bucharest’s Matei Bals hospital, killing five. Supplemental oxygen was present in both of the hospital wards.
In the aftermath of the Matei Bals fire, the hospital’s lawyer said that had a nurse not stopped the oxygen supply “we would have had an explosion.”
In a statement issued after the emergency cabinet meeting in North Macedonia Thursday, the government said it was accepting the offer of NATO allies to send fire experts to help with the investigation. The statement did not specify which countries would be involved.
With less than 30% of the country’s roughly 2 million population fully vaccinated, North Macedonia has seen a significant spike in coronavirus infections and deaths since late August.
Scores of Westerners, including Americans, fly out of Kabul
KABUL, Afghanistan — Some 200 foreigners, including Americans, flew out of Afghanistan on an international commercial flight from Kabul airport on Thursday, the first such large-scale departure since U.S and foreign forces concluded their frantic withdrawal at the end of last month.
The Qatar Airways flight to Doha marked a significant breakthrough in the bumpy coordination between the U.S. and Afghanistan’s new Taliban rulers. A dayslong stand-off over charter planes at another airport had left dozens of passengers stranded and cast doubt on Taliban assurances to allow foreigners and Afghans with proper travel documents to leave the country.
A senior U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to brief the media, provided the number of Westerners on board and said that two very senior Taliban officials had helped facilitate the departure. Americans, green card holders and other nationalities including Germans, Hungarians and Canadians were on the flight, the official said.
As Taliban authorities patrolled the tarmac, passengers presented their documents for checking, and sniffer dogs inspected luggage laid out on the ground. Some of the veteran airport workers had returned to their jobs after fleeing during the harrowing chaos of the U.S.-led airlift.
Irfan Popalzai, 12, among those boarding the flight with his mother and five brothers and sisters, said his family lives in Maryland.
“I am an Afghan, but you know I am from America and I am so excited (to leave),” he said.
As the group prepared to board earlier, Qatari officials gathered on the tarmac of Kabul airport to announce the airport was ready for the resumption of international commercial flights after days of repairs. Extensive damage to the travel hub in the frenzied final days of the U.S. airlift that evacuated over 100,000 people from the country had raised questions over how soon the transport hub could resume for regular commercial flights. Technical experts from Qatar and Turkey have been racing to restore operations.
“I can clearly say that this is a historic day in the history of Afghanistan as Kabul airport is now operational,” said Qatari special envoy Mutlaq bin Majed al-Qahtani.
“Call it what you want, a charter or a commercial flight, everyone has tickets and boarding passes,” al-Qahtani added, noting that another commercial flight would take off on Friday. “Hopefully, life is becoming normal in Afghanistan.”
The flight represents the first to depart from Kabul airport since American forces left the country at the end of August, their departure accompanied by a frantic airlift of tens of thousands of foreign citizens and Afghans fleeing the Taliban. The scenes of chaos, including Afghans plunging to their deaths after clinging to military aircraft that was taking off and a suicide bombing that killed 169 Afghans and 13 U.S. service members, came to define the fraught end to America’s two-decade war.
A foreign diplomat, likewise speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to brief the media, said another 200 foreigners, including Americans, would depart in the next couple of days.
It remains uncertain what the resumption of international flights over the next few days will mean for the tens of thousands of Afghans desperate to flee Afghanistan’s new Taliban leaders over fears of what their rule will hold.
Hundreds of other Afghans at risk after the Taliban takeover because of their past work with Americans have gathered for more than a week in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif, waiting for permission to board privately chartered evacuation flights out of the country.
Although the Taliban assured the world they would let passengers with valid travel documents leave the country, many of those stranded at the northern airport did not have such papers.
IAEA: Science, objectivity key to Fukushima water release
TOKYO — Objective, science-based monitoring is the key to safely carrying the planned release of treated but still radioactive water at Japan’s wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant, a key International Atomic Energy Agency official said Thursday.
A three-member IAEA team led by Lydie Evrard, head of the agency’s Department of Nuclear Safety and Security, is in Japan for a five-day visit for preliminary talks and a visit to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, which went into meltdown after a 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
The team is making preparations for the years of monitoring the IAEA will do of the planned water discharge, which is expected to take decades. The water was once used to cool the plant’s reactors but started to leak after the disaster.
The government and the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, announced plans in April to start releasing the water in the spring of 2023 so hundreds of storage tanks at the plant can be removed to make room for other facilities needed for its decommissioning.
The idea has been fiercely opposed by fishermen, local residents and Japan’s neighbors, including China and South Korea.
Japan has requested IAEA’s assistance to ensure the discharge meets safety standards and to gain the understanding of the international community.
Evrard said that her team and the Japanese side discussed data necessary to compile a safe and transparent plan as well as how to disseminate information to concerned communities in Japan and abroad.
She said her team “will listen to all concerns expressed” and will provide answers by conducting “science-based review” carried out in a objective and transparent way.
After another preparatory discussion next month, the IAEA will send an 11-member team of experts to Japan in December for a fuller review of the project, which would include another visit to the plant, officials said.
That team will characterize the water to be released and evaluate the safety of the discharge process and its radiation impact on humans and the environment. They also plan to conduct water and marine water sampling.
Evrard said that team will include diverse members from multiple countries, possibly including China and South Korea, for greater transparency and in order to address diverse views.
The contaminated water at the plant has been stored in about 1,000 tanks, which the plant’s operator, TEPCO, says will reach their capacity late next year.
TEPCO plans to send the water through an undersea tunnel and discharge it from a location about 1 kilometer (0.6 mile) away from the coastal power plant after further treating and diluting it with large amounts of seawater to bring it below releasable limits. The plan still needs examination and approval by the Japanese Nuclear Regulation Authority.
Government and TEPCO officials say tritium, which is not harmful in small amounts, cannot be removed from the water, but all other isotopes selected for treatment can be reduced to safe levels. Controlled release of tritium from normal nuclear plants is a routine global practice, officials say.
Airlines say rise in COVID-19 cases is hurting ticket sales
DALLAS — Several leading U.S. airlines warned Thursday that the rise in COVID-19 cases due to the delta variant is hurting their bookings and further delaying a recovery for the travel industry.
American Airlines said a slowdown that started in August has continued into September, and the airline further lowered its outlook for third-quarter revenue.
In another regulatory filing, United Airlines said its flying and revenue are both weaker than previously expected, and it is cutting its schedule for later this year to match the lower demand. United forecast a pretax loss in the third quarter that could extend into the fourth quarter if the virus outbreak continues.
Delta Air Lines said it still expects to post an adjusted pretax profit for the third quarter, but revenue will be toward the lower end of its previous forecast.
Delta CEO Ed Bastian said the rise in COVID-19 cases won’t derail the travel recovery but will delay it by 90 to 120 days. He said the variant has particularly affected business and international travel, which are both critical to the largest U.S. airlines.
Southwest Airlines reported that leisure travel too has weakened, with more cancellations and softer bookings for September and October.
Southwest said, however, that demand over the Labor Day holiday was solid other than cancellations that it attributed to Hurricane Ida’s aftermath, and it said booking patterns for the winter holidays look normal.
Shares of all four airlines fell 1% to 2% minutes after regular trading opened on Thursday.
Semiconductor company announces 300-employee factory in Washington County