Airports close, military bases on alert in Mississippi

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 11, 2001

The Associated Press

Tuesday, September 11, 2001

JACKSON, Miss. – Airports across Mississippi closed Tuesday

Email newsletter signup

and military installations were placed on heightened readiness

in the wake of apparent terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

Federal, state and military authorities across the state were

placed on heightened readiness, including the Mississippi National

Guard, said Gov. Ronnie Musgrove.

”We are increasing security measures,” said Lt. Col. David

Buck, a spokesman at the Mississippi Air National Guard at the

Jackson airport.

Buck said there was no indication at this point that Mississippi

units would be activated to deal with any threat.

The number of planes grounded and passengers stranded at Mississippi

airports was not immediately known.

Mississippi’s largest airports are located in Jackson, on the

Gulf Coast and in Tupelo. Military bases stretch from Keesler

Air Force Base in Biloxi to Columbus Air Force in the northeast


In a sequence of destruction that rocked the country, two planes

crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City and at the

Pentagon in what the President Bush said was an apparent terrorist


Musgrove called the attacks an ”unconscionable act. It is

a national tragedy. It affects all of us nationwide.”

Musgrove said there were no immediate plans to close any state

offices or schools in the state. However, he said he was in communication

with federal representatives in the state and an eye was being

kept on federal buildings.

Throughout the Capitol, staff members were staying close to

television sets, some crying as views of the collapsing buildings

were shown.

The FBI office in Jackson said it would have no comment on

any security measures being taken at this time.

”We are preparing to meet with our battle staff,” said Pam

Warnken, a Columbus Air Force Base spokeswoman. ”So little is

coming out of the Pentagon right now. We’re not sure what’s being

done at the higher levels. We are going into our own protective

posture at this time.”

Steps were also being taken at the Meridian Naval Air Station

and at Keesler.

Susan Junkins, spokeswoman at Naval Air Station Meridian, said

an auxiliary security force had been activated at the base.

Similar action was taking place at Naval Station Pascagoula,

where all entrances were being closely watched.

Jackson International Airport officials said the Federal Aviation

Administration had grounded all flights until further notice.

Hundreds of passengers were stranded at the Jackson airport,

many struggling to make other travel arrangements. Across the

airport, people could be seen calling business and family members.

Conrad Welker and his wife drove to Jackson from Hattiesburg

to take a flight to Dulles Airport near Washington.

”Dulles would be the last place you’d be able to get into

right now,” Welker said.

At Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport, Director Ken Spirito

estimated a few hundred people were impacted when the shutdown

order was given.

”Luckily, we don’t have that many planes on the ground at

this time,” he said.

”We don’t have any stranded passengers right now,” said Terry

Anderson, executive director at Tupelo Regional Airport.

”The effect it will have on us right now is that we have a

scheduled inbound here in about 30 minutes and if Memphis is closed

then we won’t get that traffic until the FAA releases the national

air space system.”

At the McCoy Federal Building in downtown Jackson, security

officers were placed on alert and told to keep cars from parking

outside the building. The building staff had been placed on alert

following the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.

”They told us to be extra careful, like at handicap spots,

they can’t sit there cars,” said Ahmod Johnson, a security spokesman

at the building.

Johnson said there had been no unusual activity following the

early morning attacks.