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
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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
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
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.