Thursday, September 13, 2001

Travelers wait, pray in deserted airport

By Tom O'Neill
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HEBRON — Inside, the airport was empty but for bomb-squad dogs and their handlers. Above, the blue sky was empty but for the occasional cloud.

        Then, with the dogs' assignment complete, passengers at Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport were allowed to return to terminals, fated to spend Wednesday the same way they spent Tuesday: in a holding pattern.

        The terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, and the resulting shutdown of the nation's airports, left some passengers fearful to fly. Others found comfort in the heightened security. It was unclear whether the shutdown would continue today.

        Others at Terminal 3, home to Delta and Comair, still shuddered to think of the razor-thin line between tragedy and mere inconvenience.

A canceled meeting

        “I'll fly again, but the sense of security is gone,” said Katie Miller, 72, of Walnut Hills, one of only two people in a baggage-claim area typically teeming with late-morning arrivals. “Nothing will be the same.”

        Ms. Miller was about 25 minutes into Delta flight 2176 to LaGuardia Airport in New York Tuesday morning when the man sitting next to her got a cellular phone call. His business meeting at the World Trade Center had been canceled.

        Moments later, the pilot announced they were returning to Cincinnati.

        “He knew the building had been hit,” she recalled. “I said, "Well, maybe they'll move your meeting.' I was being a little naive.”

        More than 1,200 air passengers were stranded here when the FAA shut down commercial air travel; many found hotels, but some slept overnight at the airport.

        And there was one more option, courtesy of a total stranger from Hyde Park named Val Sena.

        She offered people her home.

        “You see people in trouble, you want to hope,” said the clinical social worker and one-time Cincinnati City Council candidate, whose Tuesday flight to London was canceled. “That's what you're supposed to do.”

        “I have a big home, you can take a hot shower,” she told Faith Gilman, 56, of Hicksville, Long Island, and LuAnn Herrmann, 18, of Brooklyn. Mrs. Gilman is headed to Portland, Ore., Ms. Herrmann to Los Angeles.

        The stranded New Yorkers, who had befriended each other Tuesday, declined her offer, but at least one middle-aged woman accepted. They all credited Baptist Association of Greater Cincinnati volunteers who assisted them Tuesday.

        “I just want to see my father,” said Mrs. Gilman, whose daughter-in-law has two cousins who work in the World Trade Center — and haven't been heard from since the disaster.

Lost fares

        Workers were in a holding pattern, as well.

        Taxi driver Mike Minton, 51, of Newport, estimated cabbies have lost about $100 a day in fares.

        “Just gotta keep on keeping on,” said Ronald Johnson, 20, of Winton Hills, a carpet cleaner for Initial Contract Services. “It's like a ghost town today.”

        In the terminal chapel, passengers wrote impassioned pleas to God, in a startling contrast between those before and immediately after the terrorist attack.

        “Father,” the last pre-attack entry began, “please heal me from the allergies.”

        The first afterward read: “Please Lord, help us in that moment of horror. We need you now more than we ever did.”

        Another wrote in large letters: “God Bless America!”


At a glance
Attacks are topic No. 1 in classrooms
Body recovery part of work of NYC crews
Constituents' emotions unmitigated
Different faiths, all drawn to pray
Family clings to details of missing woman's fate
Jews seek normalcy
Local firefighters on task force joining rescue efforts
Muslims urged to give aid
No date, time for nation's air travel to resume
Outpouring of donations keeps blood supply steady
Relatives wait for word, pray
Stranded travelers find help in Florence
Tightened air security will be norm
- Travelers wait, pray in deserted airport
Work resumes, but life is different
Wright-Patterson medical personnel join effort
PULFER: Cell phones
RADEL: Tristate sprouts flying flags
Reports bring sweep of river
Court upholds stay for Byrd
Luken suggests raises for cadets
Luken unused to second place
Primary results
Council halts bid for road-extension vote
Superintendent's contract extended
Tristate A.M. Report
Woman shot outside school as it lets out