Airports close, military bases on alert in Mississippi
From staff, wire reports
Sept. 11, 2001
Airports across Mississippi closed today and military installations were placed on high alert in the wake of apparent terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.
Federal, state and military authorities across the state were placed on alert, including the Mississippi National Guard.
We are increasing security measures,'' said Lt. Col. David Buck, a spokesman at the Mississippi Air National Guard at the Jackson airport.
Buck said there was no indication at this point that Mississippi units would be activated to deal with any threat.
The number of planes grounded and passengers stranded at Mississippi airports was not immediately known.
Mississippi's largest airports are located in Jackson, on the Gulf Coast and in Tupelo. Military bases stretch from Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi to Columbus Air Force in the northeast Mississippi.
In a sequence of destruction that rocked the country, two planes crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City and at the Pentagon in what the President Bush said was an apparent terrorist attack.
Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck said that she and others at the state Capitol were monitoring the news on television. She said that meets at the Capitol have been delayed and that Capitol Police have been placed on "high alert."
A calm Gov. Ronnie Musgrove called the attacks an unconscionable act. It is a national tragedy. It affects all of us nationwide.''
Musgrove said there were no immediate plans to close any state offices or schools in the state. However, he said he was in communication with federal representatives in the state and an eye was being kept on federal buildings.
Throughout the Capitol, staff members were staying close to television sets, some crying as views of the collapsing buildings were shown.
The FBI office in Jackson said it would have no comment on any security measures being taken at this time.
We are preparing to meet with our battle staff,'' said Pam Warnken, a Columbus Air Force Base spokeswoman. So little is coming out of the Pentagon right now. We're not sure what's being done at the higher levels. We are going into our own protective posture at this time.''
Steps were also being taken at the Meridian Naval Air Station and at Keesler.
Susan Junkins, spokeswoman at Naval Air Station Meridian, said an auxiliary security force had been activated at the base.
Similar action was taking place at Naval Station Pascagoula, where all entrances were being closely watched.
Jackson International Airport officials said the Federal Aviation Administration had grounded all flights until further notice.
Hundreds of passengers were stranded at the Jackson airport, many struggling to make other travel arrangements. Across the airport, people could be seen calling business and family members.
Conrad Welker and his wife drove to Jackson from Hattiesburg to take a flight to Dulles Airport near Washington.
Dulles would be the last place you'd be able to get into right now,'' Welker said.
At Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport, Director Ken Spirito estimated a few hundred people were impacted when the shutdown order was given.
Luckily, we don't have that many planes on the ground at this time,'' he said.
We don't have any stranded passengers right now,'' said Terry Anderson, executive director at Tupelo Regional Airport.
The effect it will have on us right now is that we have a scheduled inbound here in about 30 minutes and if Memphis is closed then we won't get that traffic until the FAA releases the national air space system.''
At the McCoy Federal Building in downtown Jackson, security officers were placed on alert and told to keep cars from parking outside the building. The building staff had been placed on alert following the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.
They told us to be extra careful, like at handicap spots, they can't sit there cars,'' said Ahmod Johnson, a security spokesman at the building.
Johnson said there had been no unusual activity following the early morning attacks.