Attacks send shock waves to Cape Girardeau

Wednesday, September 12, 2001

Terrorist attacks in New York and Washington rocked Cape Girardeau 1,000 miles away, shutting down the airport and businesses and sending stunned residents to churches and the blood collection center, seeking solace and hoping to help.

The prayers and collections continue today, with church services scheduled across the region and an organized blood drive planned at the Osage Community Centre.

The Federal Aviation Administration ordered all planes grounded nationwide after two planes crashed into the World Trade Center towers in New York and a plane crashed into the Pentagon near Washington.

The order caused Corporate Airlines to divert its flight from Nashville to St. Louis and land at the Cape Girardeau airport around 9:15 a.m. with about 10 passengers. Airline employees wouldn't disclose the exact number.

Rebecca and Doug Davis of Mount Juliet, Tenn., were en route to St. Louis and a connecting flight for their vacation to Yellowstone National Park.

"It's awful," Rebecca Davis said as she watched the news on television in the airport restaurant. "You never expect that."

Elizabeth Quintana of Tampa Bay, Fla., was returning home from visiting her finance in Nashville. She sat dejectedly by her luggage in the airport lobby as she waited to learn when flights would resume.

Quintana believes the FAA had no choice but to ground all flights.

"It is the correct thing for security," she said.

She and other passengers were given hotel rooms and the hope that flights would resume today.

Unprecedented decision

Bruce Loy, airport manager, spent the day in the largely deserted terminal in the shadow of the airport tower where black shades were pulled down over the large windows.

"We're just kind of waiting now," he said.

The FAA order also kept air ambulances on the ground nationwide, including the two helicopter services in Cape Girardeau.

Loy said the FAA decision to ground planes is unprecedented.

"This has never happened," he said of the terrorism. "I feel devastated, frankly."

The attacks prompted the city to put its police and fire departments on heightened alert and station a handful of police officers and firefighters at the airport. Firefighters were sent back to their station later in the day.

Cape Girardeau Mayor Al Spradling III said he was shocked by what happened.

"You just sort of sit there and watch in horror," Spradling said. "You can't help thinking what kind of crazy people value life so cheaply and have such hatred in their hearts to kill thousands of people."

Federal Building security

Security was tight at the Federal Building at Broadway and Fountain Street in Cape Girardeau. Extra federal marshals were posted for safety, and street parking was banned around the building.

Cape Girardeau's mall closed early in the face of the tragedy. Jim Govro, general manager of Westfield Shoppingtown West Park, said the company closed all 40 of its shopping centers nationwide.

The mall chain is headquartered in Los Angeles, but the company also had offices in the World Trade Center.

Locally, the mall closed at 12:30 p.m. Stores are scheduled to reopen today.

"This is a national crisis," Govro said. "We wanted to send our employees home to be with their families during this time."

Numerous cancellations

The grounding of commercial and private planes already has affected future flights this week.

Mark Hill, owner of Destinations Unlimited travel agency in Cape Girardeau, advised people to wait until next week to travel by plane.

Hill has received numerous cancellations from people who had planned to fly Tuesday or later this week.

"Lots of people will cancel and not go, period," he said. Hill said he has clients in Canada who can't return home because the border has been closed.

Cape Girardeau banker Jay Knudtson and his wife were scheduled to fly out of St. Louis on Thursday for a business meeting and mini-vacation in Virginia Beach, Va. But that flight and the business meeting have been canceled.

Knudtson said his wife was glad the flight had been canceled. "There is a subtle paranoia right now in terms of flying," he said.

"When something like this happens, you just want to stay home and hug your kid."

Staff writers Heather Kronmueller, Andrea Buchanan, Scott Moyers and Sam Blackwell contributed to this report.

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