- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 4, 2001

Airline passengers using Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport today should expect strict security checks, an obvious military and police presence, and new restrictions on baggage and movement within the airport.
Following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Reagan Airport will reopen today with the tightest security of any airport in the nation. National Guard troops and tight new Federal Aviation Administration rules will be in place to protect against bomb threats and the risk of hijackers steering airplanes off course to slam into the nearby Capitol, White House or other buildings.
The first flights will begin taking off at 7 a.m., commuter shuttles to New York's La Guardia and Boston's Logan airports operated by US Airways and Delta Air Lines.
Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore III and D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton will be on board the first New York shuttle run by US Airways, the airline hardest hit by the airport closing.
Until Sept. 11, the airline the airport's biggest operated 186 departures and the same number of arrivals daily at the airport.
It will have eight departures and eight arrivals today. Monday, departures and arrivals will increase to 22 each. After that, US Airways hopes to gradually increase flights to previous levels.
The reopening "will be a very important day not only for this airline but also for the community and really for the nation to get this symbol of air travel, tourism and commerce up and running again," said Rick Weintraub, US Airways spokesman.
President Bush ordered the airport's reopening Tuesday from Concourse C, with the Washington Monument in the background. The airport remained closed for 23 days while officials weighed the security risks posed by the airport's proximity to federal buildings vs. the $2.4 billion the airport pumps into the Washington economy annually.
Among the new security precautions passengers will encounter are:
Curbside check-ins have been eliminated.
Passengers must show photo identification at ticket counters and again when they board planes.
Passengers can carry one carry-on bag and one personal item, such as a purse or briefcase.
Non-passengers must meet arriving passengers in the baggage area rather than at the gates.
Parking-garage access has been limited to motorists parking or retrieving their vehicles.
Security guards will be accompanied by bomb-sniffing attack dogs in secure areas, and armed air marshals will fly on all flights.
Other security restrictions exist, but airport and airline officials are forbidden by the FAA from talking about them.
Travelers flying to Reagan Airport can no longer expect a scenic view of Washington's monuments as they fly over the Potomac River. Instead, flights are limited to approaches and landings that keep them a greater distance from key government buildings.
The scene at the airport yesterday gave few hints that it lies only a walk away from the site of one of the Sept. 11 targets the Pentagon.
The most excitement at the airport yesterday afternoon was when a television cameraman tripped and hurt his arm.
Otherwise, the day before the reopening was marked by cleaners cleaning, shopkeepers stocking shelves and news reporters prowling halls for stories.
Airport officials hope that is all that happens.
"We're working very hard to make sure the opening goes smoothly," said Tara Hamilton, Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority spokeswoman.
Opinions among airport employees vary on whether the new restrictions will eliminate all terrorist threats.
"What happens, happens," said Maria Moreno, an airport janitor who paused from cleaning the glass on video monitors that display flight schedules. "Those are things of God."
Nevertheless, she welcomed the reopening.
It's a tremendous joy," she said. "It's our source of jobs."
About 10,000 workers at the airport were idled during the closing.
On a television nearby, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld was shown meeting with Saudi Arabian leaders in the hunt for suspected terrorist leader Osama bin Laden.
Down the hall, Sharon Hamilton, manager of the Faber Gifts and News Stand, unwrapped bundled magazines to stock her shelves.
"This airport is still vulnerable," she said.
She works outside the terminal gates, where metal detectors, screeners and guards will be standing by. Beginning today, only ticketed passengers and airport employees bearing badges will be allowed into the gate areas.
She said she was glad to be working again but does not like the pall the terrorist attacks have placed on the airport.
"It's not going to be fun like it could be because of all the hoopla," she said.
J. Edmond, a private security guard who paced the first floor near the terminal gates, said he believed new security procedures made flights out of the airport safe. He would not explain which procedures.
"I don't really want to talk about stuff like that," he said.
Hanna Tesfaye, supervisor for the Cheesecake Factory near the US Airways terminal gates, said she got bored watching television at home while the airport was closed.
She said she was "very happy" about the reopening. "I got my job back," she said.

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