Holiday travelers express confidence, although some anxious

Wednesday, November 21, 2001

Associated Press WriterCHICAGO (AP) -- Travelers headed for airports, train stations and highways Wednesday, many expressing confidence while others admitted some anxiety as they began the first major holiday travel period since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"I am nervous, a little jittery," said Beverly Pincus, 71, of Chicago, after checking in for a flight to Boston, the origin of one of the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center.

"That makes me more nervous," she added.

Across the country, airports were crowded, train stations were filled and highways were jammed -- even though the AAA predicted a 6 percent decline in Thanksgiving holiday travel this year.

"There's no safer place than with my mommy right now and I'm 28 years old," said Karyn Capele, who was traveling by bus from Detroit to Long Island, N.Y.

AAA said it expects a record 87 percent of this year's Thanksgiving travel to be by automobile.

"They sleep and I drive," Mark Barney of Huntersville, N.C., said at a gas stop near Jacksonville, Fla. He was heading to Melbourne, Fla., with his wife and three daughters. "Sunflower seeds, they'll keep you awake. With a family of five, it's too expensive to fly."

Some traveling by train or bus said security could have been tighter.

A pile of luggage sat unattended near a gate at the train station in Toledo, Ohio, and no security guards were in sight at the passenger waiting area.

"It's really nothing," said Daniel Cohen, a sophomore at the University of Toledo, who was taking the train to visit his girlfriend in Chicago. "You just walk right on and they don't check your bags."

Security was tight at airports, with the National Guard watching in many places. But travelers said they weren't bothered.

"I think recent events demand it," said psychiatrist Chip McDaniel, 32, as he waited for a flight from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. "I hope public officials don't let that wane and the public doesn't forget."

That sentiment was shared by many.

"I've got kids on airplanes all the time. I want it safe," said Kathy Harris of Cleveland, who was visiting her daughter at O'Hare International Airport while on a layover in Chicago.

But Harris and her husband, Bill, said they had no qualms about flying.

"I've seen airfares go down and now they're on their way back up again, so I think people's confidence levels have improved quite a bit. I think we're definitely on an upward trend," he said.

About 60 United Airlines employees stepped away from their normal jobs Wednesday, volunteering to aid customer service agents helping people navigate the maze through ticketing and security at O'Hare.

"We're all just kind of pitching in," said national account manager Bob Barba. "It's a bit confusing this year. There's so many lines."

The extra help appeared to make a difference. Lines moved along quickly, and many travelers were smiling.

Mary Ann Denton of Morristown, N.J., said the terrorist attacks meant a major change in her travel plans. She and her husband headed home from an Arizona vacation on separate planes.

"For me and my husband, it's a matter of the convenience of traveling together versus the tragedy of what would happen if a plane crashed," she said. "It's a very simple decision for us as parents."

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