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LIBERTY Grounded travelers favor increased security



Published: Thu, September 13, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Out-of-town travelers forced to seek shelter in the Mahoning Valley support stricter security measures at airports.

By DAVID SKOLNICK

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

LIBERTY -- They should have been in really bad moods.

But people who were on airplane flights grounded at the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport in Vienna Township were friendly, inquisitive and a little bit bored.

They were eager to find out all they could about the terrorist attacks, the latest rumors and gossip, the rising gasoline prices, what there is to do in the Mahoning Valley and what will happen next.

They also expressed concern about their safety on airlines.

Terrorists were able to hijack four planes Tuesday, and reports say they smuggled knives onto the aircraft past security.

Praise for security: Those on flights that made emergency landings in Vienna had nothing but praise for airport security.

"I thought security was great," said Martha Turcatte of Bartlett, N.H., who was traveling with her husband from Honolulu, Hawaii, to Newark, N.J., and eventually to Boston when they made the unexpected stop here. "Everyone did a great job."

Turcatte said she was required to open her carry-on bag at the airport because security noticed something strange in it when it went through an X-ray machine. Inside were dried-up leis. She also said security inspected and opened a cooler being carried onto the plane by another passenger.

There is always room for improvement when it comes to security, her husband said.

"But no one can protect against suicide," he said. "If you are willing to give up your life, there's nothing you can do. Also, they must have had inside people on this, so how do you protect people from that?"

More support: Teresa Houston of Maui, Hawaii, who was on the same Continental flight, said there should be tougher security standards at airports. Like the Turcattes, she's at a loss as to what more can be done.

But if something can be done to improve safety, Houston said she would be willing to give up many of the conveniences of flying. Houston does not oppose requiring all luggage to be searched individually and other safety measures, even if it means she has to be at the airport three or four hours before her flight is to take off.

"I'd be willing to give up anything for safety," she said.

Houston, originally from Dayton, was flying to Newark planning to catch a plane to Dayton to visit with family. Instead, her mother, Tina McCullough, and her uncle, Lee Jackson, drove to the Mahoning Valley after Houston told them where she was. Houston drove to Dayton with her mother and uncle Wednesday.

Favor entry restrictions: The three said the time has come for the United States to make it more difficult for foreigners to gain entry into the country.

"It's too easy to get into the United States," Houston said. "They're coming in from everywhere. We should toughen the laws up. If you're not a citizen, you shouldn't be here."

But the three acknowledged they have mixed emotions about the subject. After all, their ancestors were immigrants to this country.

"It's a difficult balance because of that," McCullough said. "However, our way of life is very precious to us and we shouldn't let terrorists destroy it."

Maria and Carlos Rios of Hawaii, who were on the flight to Newark, also favor tougher immigration standards.

Carlos Rios said he thinks that natives of certain countries do not pose a security threat to the United States but others do, and that the United States should be able to better scrutinize those who enter this country.

"America is made up of immigrants; everyone is from other places," his wife said. "But there has to be a balance. It's a very complex situation."

The Rioses also praised airport security and were amazed that terrorists could smuggle weapons on board four aircraft and hijack them.

"They checked everyone and everything," Maria Rios said. "They were checking us with electronic security. They did so much checking before we got on the plane."

Drove instead: William Lane of Chillicothe, Ohio, never got a chance to board a plane Tuesday.

Lane was supposed to take a flight from Manchester, N.H., to Columbus after a business trip to New England. Instead, his flight and hundreds of others were canceled after the four commercial planes were hijacked.

Lane got into his rental car and headed west. He stopped at the Holiday Inn MetroPlex in Liberty about 4 a.m. Wednesday to get some sleep and eat breakfast and then drove home.

"I don't know what more can be done to fight terrorism," he said. "This has been planned for a long time and they had to have people in the airports helping them."

Suggests deportation: Lane, a self-described "Archie Bunker type," said not only should the United States toughen its immigration laws, it should kick all noncitizens out of the country.

"I'd tell them they had to be on the last camel out of the country by Monday," he said. "We've been so soft and given these people so much. We get no appreciation from these people. I'd get a whole lot tougher. These countries who harbored these terrorists should be on the list. We should hit someone and hit them hard or it's open season on America for every terrorist group."

Lane said he supports stricter standards for airport security regardless of the inconveniences it would cause.

"I've given conveniences up all my life," he said. "I'm a believer in taking care of your own. Whatever it takes to make this country safer I would favor. It's important that we don't have a country being terrorized by fanatics."

skolnick@vindy.com




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