- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 12, 2001

The nation's transportation networks clogged with people fleeing to safety yesterday, while the information infrastructure sputtered and coughed but continued operating in the wake of the back-to-back terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.
Millions of Americans yesterday were focused on two goals: getting away to safety and contacting loved ones to make sure they were out of harm's way. The scope and gravity of yesterday's attack, however, made both difficult.
Air traffic around the nation was halted for the first time, until further notice. Airports emptied out as travelers were sent home and airport officials scrambled to take safety precautions. The Federal Aviation Administration said the ban would not be lifted until today at noon, at the earliest.
Highway traffic was snarled in both Washington and New York as officials shut down key roads near the disasters, and public- and private-sector workers alike were encourage to go home.
In Washington, outbound traffic was jammed at midmorning yesterday along most major roads and highways. Many inbound bridges and routes were shut — Routes 50, 66 and 29 — and only medical personnel were being let in. By late afternoon, several roads remained closed, but Park Police said traffic was slowly getting back to normal.
Anxious motorists, concerned that the terrorist attack would disrupt fuel supplies, began lining up yesterday at gas stations for an hour or more for gasoline costing as much as $5 per gallon in some places.
Prices in the Midwest, already rising because of distribution bottlenecks, moved even higher after yesterday's attacks. Nationwide, the retail price of unleaded gasoline is $1.54 a gallon.
While gasoline wholesalers and retailers raised prices, the nation's petroleum companies tried to allay consumers' concerns by pledging to freeze their prices and maintain steady supplies.
In New York, stunned residents tried to leave Manhattan any way they could, many walking, others taking ferries. Cabs into both cities were hard to find as drivers themselves fled to safety.
Amtrak rail service reopened in the afternoon along the Northeast corridor after the nation's passenger-rail system shut down all tracks and tunnels as a security precaution, officials said.
Amtrak officials said that, after the rail system's tracks and tunnels were determined to be safe, they decided to reopen the system as soon as possible to help people get to safety. Nonetheless, train passengers said they were facing three- to four-hour delays leaving Washington's Union Station.
Just as the nation's roads were jammed yesterday, so too were the lines of communication.
Many Americans reached for their cell phones after the attacks to see if loved ones were safe, but most heard nothing but busy signals early in the day. Major phones companies urged customers to use their cell phones for emergency situations only.
"Cell phones were jampacked. I could not get a call out for hours," said Edward Leopold, a Potomac resident who was on Long Island yesterday for a business meeting with his company, BAE Systems of the District. "I finally got a call through to home, but we've been asked to use our cell phones only for emergencies, so we're not."
Verizon, one of the largest phone companies, said its service continued without major disruption, but that some of its equipment was damaged in World Trade Center blasts. Sprint said the loss of leased land-line equipment under one of the buildings was blocking 75,000 long-distance calls.
Internet traffic slowed to a crawl yesterday and major news Web sites were jammed.
America Online, in Sterling, Va., was working with a skeleton crew yesterday as all but those essential to keep the system running were sent home. Company officials did not know if the company would reopen today. AOL's dial-up connections in New York were often busy.
By midday, many weary travelers remained stranded between points of departure and their destinations.
Bill Heidrick and his son, Brandon, who later found themselves stuck at BWI, actually saw the Pentagon in flames as they drove up to BWI from their hotel in Northern Virginia.
"You couldn't see anything," Brandon Heidrick said. "It was engulfed."
Staff writer Tim Lemke contributed to this report.


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