Terror threats don't fly with mother on a mission
Airlines cut domestic flight schedules by 13 percent on Sept. 11 compared with the previous Wednesday.
By JoANNE VIVIANO
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
PITTSBURGH -- Wearing a sweater embroidered with American flags, stars and hearts, Cheryl Mangan gripped her burgundy suitcase and headed toward the USAirways security checkpoint.
Mangan, of Howland, wasn't anxious about boarding an airplane to Boston on the first anniversary of America's worst terrorist attack.
But she was anxious that maybe something could go wrong and her flight would be canceled or delayed, or the airport would shut down.
The mother didn't want a delay. She needed to be in Boston to join her son, Brendan, 25, as he went to surgery today to repair a torn knee ligament.
Although she hasn't flown in two years, Mangan thought nothing of selecting Sept. 11 as her day of travel.
"It was something I didn't even think about," she said. "I needed to be with my son, ... whatever it takes to get there."
At Pittsburgh International Airport, cars drove into a quiet short-term parking lot without being stopped or searched.
All flags -- American and international -- flew at half-staff.
Inside the USAirways terminal, foot traffic was sparse. Employees wore red, white and blue ribbons. A banner with an American flag said, "Thanks for traveling."
A Salvation Army volunteer rang bells near a red kettle adorned with an American flag and a small figurine of a firefighter rescuing a child.
Ticket counter lines were empty as Mangan walked up to one to get her paperwork. Activity near an area where randomly selected passengers were searched was light.
"There's hardly anybody here," Mangan said. "It looks very quiet."
Traffic got a bit heavier at a security checkpoint, where couples hugged and said their goodbyes.
Still, there was no wait as Mangan disappeared past the now familiar "Ticketed passengers only beyond this point" signs and through the glowing metal detector.
The federal government had raised the nationwide terror alert to its second-highest level, ordering security workers at airports, train stations and along waterways Wednesday to be extra aware.
The Transportation Department reported no specific threat within the United States, and a spokesman said, "This is all being done out of an abundance of caution."
Mangan said she thought the tight security would translate into a minuscule chance of any terrorist acts. But her views were not shared by everyone.
"All the people I work with wouldn't be flying today," she said before her flight. "They're all praying for me."
Across the nation, airlines cut domestic flight schedules by 13 percent compared with the previous Wednesday, according to OAG Worldwide, a company that provides flight information.Spirit Airlines had encouraged air travel on Sept. 11 by giving away 13,400 tickets as a promotion, but the company's vice chairman, Mark Kahan, said many people who had reserved free tickets did not show up for their flights.
Mangan, an educational coordinator at Head Start preschool locations in Niles and Brookfield, started her day at work and arrived at the airport shortly before 4 p.m. to make her 5:55 p.m. flight. It departed early, by 5:47.
Mangan, the wife of Dennis B. Mangan, The Vindicator's editorial page editor, called her flight uneventful except for an extra 15 minutes in the air because of high winds in Boston.
She said she felt safe but was aware of herself, looking closely at the passengers around her. The flight was at most one-third full, with about 40 to 50 coach passengers and four to six people in first class, Mangan said.
At the Boston airport, foot traffic was light, she added. When her son arrived at the airport to meet her, security personnel searched his car and trunk and told him he was prohibited from backing into a parking space.
Most travelers Wednesday said their flights were smooth.
Paul Tessier of Florida came to Pittsburgh for his aunt's funeral. He paid $300 for the last-minute flight, booked Sunday.
Things went as usual, except for a few different announcements.
"We weren't allowed to get out of our seats for the first half-hour or the last half-hour," he said. If anyone did, the airplane would have been directed to land at the nearest airport.
Tessier discovered the reason for the restriction when the plane landed and he saw Air Force One. President Bush had used the airport for his stop on the way to Somerset County.
Sally Maloney of Sewickley, Pa., frequently flies between Pittsburgh and Chicago for work, but she was a little anxious Wednesday.
"I was a little bit concerned this morning watching the news. I travel so often, I just can't worry about it," she said. "But I called my husband and son before I left."
Trip from Washington
The Rev. Basil Nortz, a Catholic priest, flew from Washington's Dulles International Airport to Pittsburgh with a layover in Newark, N.J. He said the flight went smoothly -- once he made it.
Heavy Washington, D.C., traffic made him miss his first flight, something he's never done before.
It also meant that he was in line at a security checkpoint when he heard an announcement that President Bush had called for a moment of silence.
"It was very beautiful," he said. "It was very moving to be actually in an airport at the moment of silence."
XThe Associated Press contributed to this report..