NEW YORK -- In the worst attack on the U.S. since Pearl Harbor, a
coordinated series of hijackings and suicide missions destroyed New
York's World Trade Center, damaged the Pentagon, killed or injured
untold numbers of people, and shut down the U.S. transportation
Travel Weekly staff reporting to work on the morning of Sept. 11
could see the smoke billowing from the top of the World Trade
Center as the two aircraft struck, each hitting one of the Trade
About an hour later, the twin towers, the crowning glory of New
York City's skyline, were gone.
In Washington, the U.S. government came under attack as an
aircraft, reported to have been hijacked, crashed into the west
front of the Pentagon. The resulting explosion and fire caused
numerous casualties and collapsed a portion of the building.
Most government offices in Washington were evacuated, including
the White House, the Capitol and the State Department. Federal
employees were sent home and numerous other offices in the area
closed for the day, including ASTA's headquarters in nearby
Within moments, there were widespread reports of other incidents
including word of a hijacked plane down in western Pennsylvania.
Widespread speculation thought it might have been headed for Camp
The shutdown of the transportation system was pervasive, with
the FAA's immediate order to close all U.S. airports. Inbound
international flights already in the air were being rerouted to
Far from the epicenter of the attacks in the East, cities
tightened security, focusing on skyscrapers that might be
vulnerable to suicide missions such as the one in New York.
For example, in San Francisco, major office towers, including
Bank of America and Transamerica, shut down and were evacuated for
security reasons, and Bay area bridges, including the landmark
Golden Gate Bridge were placed on high alert, although they
As this issue was going to press, the air transportation system
remained shuttered and it was not known when it might reopen.
Apart from the immediate consideration of the near-term future
of U.S. civil aviation, travel professionals pondered the
longer-term consequences of the stunning assault on U.S. commercial
and government landmarks.
And overriding those concerns was the larger question of the
effects of the terrorism on travel, particularly by air.
Air space shut down
The transportation disruption was unprecedented. In the wake of
the hijackings, the FAA put a "national ground stop" on all
aircraft in the U.S., meaning nothing could take off with the
exception of military and law enforcement flights. All New York and
Washington-area airports were closed and all inbound transatlantic
flights were diverted to Canada.
The FAA said it implemented the national ground stop at 9:25
a.m., shortly after the second aircraft struck the World Trade
Center. Aircraft already in flight at that time were given
permission to continue to their destinations or land at the nearest
suitable airport, at each airline's discretion.
As the situation continued to develop about 12:30 p.m. Tuesday,
an FAA spokesman said international aircraft destined for the U.S.
were being allowed to land in Canada "with certain security
measures in place."
As of 12:30 p.m., 50 domestic commercial aircraft were still
airborne in U.S. airspace, and "there are no known problems with
any of them," an FAA spokesman said. All were within 40 to 50 miles
of their destination.
Usually there are 4,000 to 5,000 flights within U.S. air space
at that time of day. As a precaution, Air Canada suspended all its
flight departures system wide.
American confirmed that it lost two aircraft. American said the
flights were Flight 11, a Boeing 767 en route from Boston to Los
Angeles with 81 passengers, nine flight attendants and two pilots;
and Flight 77, a Boeing 757 operating from Washington Dulles to Los
Angeles with 58 passengers, four flight attendants and two
United confirmed that two of its flights crashed: UA 93, a
Boeing 757 aircraft, departed from Newark at 8:01 a.m., bound for
San Francisco, with 38 passengers onboard, two pilots, five flight
attendants; and UA 175, a Boeing 767 aircraft, departed from Boston
at 7:58 a.m. local time, bound for Los Angeles, with 56 passengers
onboard, two pilot, and seven flight attendants.
People on the road
Kevin Mitchell, chairman of the Business Travel Coalition, an
advocacy group for corporations, sent out an e-mail, inviting
travel managers to share suggestions and recommendations in how to
deal with the task of serving stranded travelers.
Those companies that receive BTC's daily e-mail were invited to
participate in the forum. Debbie Shircliff, travel manager at
Indianapolis-based Thomson Multimedia, told Travel Weekly her
department is advising travelers to find alternative ways of
getting to their destination, like renting a car.
Shircliff said Thomson also advised its travel management firm,
TQ3 Maritz Travel Solutions, to cancel all hotel reservations for
employees who were supposed to be traveling today, in order to
avoid no-show fees.
Jerry Williams, who works in the corporate travel office for
Ford Motor Company, said Ford's headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan
were evacuated on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Williams said the travel office was in the process of
contacting all its stranded travelers.
"We're advising them to get accommodations wherever they happen
to be," said Williams. "We're still in the process of locating
At OneTravel.com, airport expert Terry Trippler said
canceled flights would be considered a "force majeure event,"
having been caused by a government regulation, demand or
He said that meant travelers would have the choice of having
their tickets refunded -even non-refundable tickets -or accepting
alternate arrangements offered by the airline.
Passengers would not be entitled to any compensation or
amenities, he said.
In the hours immediately after the attack, Marriott
International, which manages two hotels near the World Trade
Center, set up a telephone hotline to handle calls from family
members and media. The number is (866) 866-9928.
Marriott also posted updates on its web site, which indicated
that the Marriott World Trade Center was evacuated. The firm also
operates the Marriott Financial Center, which is a few blocks
downtown from the World Trade Center and the Marriott World Trade
A spokesman for Regent International Hotels, which manages the
Regent Wall Street in lower Manhattan, said all hotel employees
were present and accounted for, and shortly after the tragedy, the
property was put in lock down. Guests were also in lock down.