With plane flights grounded, would-be travelers make do

Vacations, business trips get longer after tragedy

Terrorism Strikes America

The Nation

September 15, 2001|By Ann Sagi Ward | Ann Sagi Ward,SUN STAFF

Air travelers stranded thousands of miles from their destinations boarded flights yesterday, some viewing their forced grounding as added vacation days, others as a way to accomplish more work.

The Federal Aviation Administration halted all flights Tuesday morning after four planes hijacked by terrorists crashed into the Pentagon, the World Trade Center in New York City and a Pennsylvania field.

Sally Sexton, 56, of Hamilton was visiting her sister in San Diego and was to leave Tuesday morning.

"We got as far as the runway, then we turned around and came back. They said there was a problem in New York, and we would be delayed about five minutes," Sexton said. "Five minutes later, they said there was a major problem in New York, and no flights would be leaving."

Sexton, a 25-year Kmart employee and sporting goods manager at the chain's Joppatowne store, stayed with her sister in Escondido, Calif., for a few extra days, then made her way home yesterday aboard Frontier Airlines.

`No sense getting upset'

"There's no sense getting upset. I want to be safe, Everyone wants to be safe. You can't get angry. This is for your own protection. This is for your country," she said. "Go with the flow."

Ricardo Garcia of Denver agreed. Garcia, 48, owner of a health care consulting company, stood in line at 4 a.m. PDT near two travelers covered with blankets, sleeping on couches.

"We have no control over this. There's no reason to lose sleep over it," he said, though he conceded that travelers without passage to their destinations might not be so tolerant.

Hank Fallek, 57, of St. Leonard in Calvert County also had embarked on a one-day business trip that turned into a three-day stay.

"I was supposed to leave Tuesday afternoon," said Fallek, who works for the Republic Group an Arlington, Va., international marketing company. When he didn't leave, "I did more business. E-mail still works.

"I ran my business out of Denver instead of Arlington," he said.

An electronics engineer from a second Arlington company who was stuck in San Diego during a business trip said the delay was productive.

Making use of the time

"We made good use of the time," said Bob Bassett, 60, of Centra Technology. "We had another meeting."

Eran Cohen had been flying from Boston to San Diego on Tuesday when he became stranded in Denver. He said his flight plans included United 175, which was hijacked and crashed into the World Trade Center.

Cohen, who works for Comverse Technology telecommunications company, said he is "lucky" he didn't take that flight.

"I am trying not to think of it for a while," he said.

Yesterday, he was flying from Denver to Baltimore-Washington International Airport to shorten the distance home, because Boston's Logan International Airport - where two of the hijacked flights originated - remained closed. "So long as I get to the East Coast, I can drive," he said. "I looked at [the distance] on a map. It doesn't seem like a long way."

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