- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 13, 2001

Washington area airports and governments already on high alert in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks braced for a local disaster that never happened yesterday after American Airlines Flight 587 crashed in New York.
Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority police used bomb-sniffing dogs at Ronald Reagan Washington National and Washington Dulles International airports while officers guarded nearly every entrance.
National Guard troops patrolled more frequently at security checkpoints, and the airports' private security screeners gave extra scrutiny to passengers and baggage.
Reed Boatright, a spokesman for Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore III, said the state employed no extra security measures because "we were already at a very high-alert status, and we're sticking with it."
Air Force F-15 and F-16 fighter jets streaked across Washington's skies on routine, post-September 11 flights. "They are there because of the heightened state of alert," said a senior Air Force officer.
A report of a suspicious package on the Memorial Bridge forced the span's closure for about 40 minutes while U.S. Park Police officers investigated it. The package turned out to be a bag of trash, and the bridge was reopened by 11:15 a.m. Traffic was lighter than normal because many federal employees did not go to work because they were observing Veterans Day.
Local flights to New York were canceled or postponed in the immediate aftermath of the 9:17 a.m. crash of the French-made Airbus A300-600 in the Rockaway Beach neighborhood of Queens, N.Y. Flights to New York resumed yesterday afternoon.
The Delta Shuttle normally one of the busiest runs from Reagan Airport was also one of the first to get back in service. The first plane left LaGuardia Airport in New York at 2:30 p.m.
Many passengers expressed worry about flying safety. "I am always nervous to fly anyway," said Maureen McGrath, a 30-year-old Bostonian scheduled to fly out of Reagan Airport yesterday afternoon. "This doesn't help any."
The only local airline-related incident occurred about 5 p.m., when a US Airways flight from Pittsburgh to Dulles was diverted to Reagan National because a drunken passenger tried to force his way into the cockpit, officials said. Raho N. Ortiz, 33, of Northeast was charged with interfering and failing to follow flight crew directions, which is a felony.
About 107 passengers were on board US Airways Flight 969 from Pittsburgh International Airport, including U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Michigan Democrat.
Police in the District, Maryland and Virginia were especially alert yesterday for anyone or anything that might be suspicious.
"It's kinda crazy," said Neil L. Trugman, a member of the quality assurance division that operates Washington's Emergency Operations Center in the downtown Metropolitan Police headquarters.
But no chances can be taken, he said, adding that "we're in touch with all the agencies involved."
In fact, Metropolitan Police can work side by side with the FBI and Secret Service in the new emergency center inside police headquarters. The center can display 84 televised sites, including Union Station and the U.S. Capitol, and is large enough to accommodate the FBI and Secret Service agents.
Virginia State Police spokeswoman Lucy Caldwell said troopers continued to be stationed at Dulles and Reagan Airport to patrol curbs and side roads. Mrs. Caldwell said the 24 troopers stationed at the airports will be there "indefinitely," even though their deployment was supposed to end last month.
Maryland State Police in their Pikesville headquarters yesterday were monitoring news reports about the disaster in Queens and closely checking police reports, especially from Baltimore-Washington International and other airports, said Sgt. Scott Wimmer.
Meanwhile, Fairfax County's Urban Search and Rescue Team apparently will not be going to New York to help at the scene of the American Airlines plane crash.
Officials said teams from Massachusetts and Pittsburgh were put on alert that they might be going, and teams from Virginia Beach and Florida have been advised that they could be going. An advisory is considered a step below being put on alert.
The Fairfax and Virginia Beach teams last worked long shifts after the terrorist attack on the Pentagon on September 11.
Visitors to the District a rare sight in the 61 days since terrorists crashed an airliner into the Pentagon were shook up by yesterday's crash.
Some 3,800 delegates to the United Jewish Communities General Assembly at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Northwest did not cancel their convention in metropolitan Washington this year, even though the city was one of two targets attacked by terrorists September 11.
Yet many couldn't help thinking, "Have they struck again?" when the American Airlines flight crashed in Queens early yesterday.
Nathan Gessner had flashbacks to the morning the two towers of the World Trade Center collapsed. A senior at New York University, Mr. Gessner, 20, said his first thoughts were "sheer terror," when he heard about the plane crash yesterday.
"Oh, no, not again," said Tania Koren, 20, a student at McGill University in Montreal, when she heard the news.
Grigoriy Titiyevskiy, a native of the former Soviet Union, said "The [airline crash] is one of the things you don't expect. Like when I was in Israel there's always an element of shock but, I'm not going to hide."
This article is based in part on wire service reports.


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide