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franklin county times

Commercial travel rocked by terrorist attack

By Staff
PRECAUTION Meridian police officer Don Hopkins and his K-9 partner check the Amtrak Crescent for explosives Tuesday. A Meridian Fire Department dog was also used in the search. Photo by Paula Merritt/The Meridian Star
By Steve Gillespie/The Meridian Star
Sept. 12, 2001
Meridian residents were stranded Tuesday in Atlanta, Philadelphia, Seattle and New York when federal officials halted air travel because of terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
Bus traffic from Meridian was limited, with service canceled to the Northeast. The Amtrak Crescent continued its run from New Orleans, but it was unclear if the northbound train that left Tuesday would make it all the way to New York City.
Airlines notified travel agencies they plan to refund non-refundable tickets because of the delays from the terrorist attacks. But travelers and travel agents found it difficult Tuesday to contact their airlines.
Train inspected
At about noon Tuesday, shortly after the northbound Amtrak Crescent stopped for passengers in Meridian, city police and firefighters used two dogs to inspect the train for possible explosives.
Passengers initially were told at Meridian's Union Station that the Crescent might not travel beyond Atlanta. Passengers were told they could continue to Atlanta or return to New Orleans later that evening on the southbound train.
About 30 minutes later, as travelers were frantically trying to decide what to do and attempting to contact their families, Amtrak employee Richard Degman announced the train would continue its run northward.
At about the same time, in Anniston, Ala., just east of Birmingham, the Immigration and Naturalization Service arrested a man of Mideastern origin following a possible bomb threat aboard the southbound Crescent.
No explosives were found, an Anniston police officer said.
Passengers unaware
At Union Station in Meridian, passengers on the northbound Crescent had limited information about the terrorist attacks. Many watched news reports on a television in the station lobby while police inspected the train.
Ray and Fatimah Gates of Baltimore, both U.S. Army veterans, were on their way home with their two young children. Both were shocked at the terrorist attacks.
Greyhound, which has a terminal at Union Station, remained in operation Tuesday. But travelers headed north could only go as far a Richmond, Va. all northeast bus traffic was halted.
Bob Walker, a travel consultant with Corrigan Travel Agency in Meridian, called the entire scene "a big mess."
Steve Gillespie is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3233, or e-mail him at sgillespie@themeridianstar.com.

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