MS. REBECCA SHEIR
If you were in Washington during the days following September 11th, you probably recall the, almost, eerie lack of airplanes roaring overhead. Dulles International Airport shut down for two days, Reagan National Airport was close for more than three weeks. In our weekly transportation segment, "From A to B," Jim Hilgen heads to Reagan to meet the man who, 10 years ago, was in charge when air travel ground to a halt.
MR. JIM HILGEN
Where were you on the morning of September 11, 2001? For Chris Brown, the answer is easy. He was at work in the midst of a routine day as manager of Reagan National Airport. Brown recalls thinking, the weather in New York must've been pretty bad when he was told a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. Shortly afterward, he saw things in a different light.
MR. CHRIS BROWN
When I saw the video, my personal conclusion was that this was a crime and that -- the statement I made to my colleague at the time, my assistant, was I told her, I said we're in this.
Brown's work as airport manager didn't allow him much time for personal reflection, but he and his staff knew they were working through a day to remember.
We all recognize that the nation had been changed forever and that we were still in the midst of a really traumatic event and it hadn't played itself out.
After flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon, Brown went about the work of securing the airport, a task complicated by what he refers to as self-evacuation.
In some cases, I mean, people really felt that, justifiably so, that the threat was very real, imminent and left the building just as you see it today with, literally, cash registers open, ovens on, rental cars running. People just left.
Reagan finally reopened on October 4th, 23 days after the attacks. Brown says Federal officials needed to be convinced that the airports proximity to the nation's capital did not create a heightened level of danger. This is where the former Navy pilot's military experience and knowledge came into play.
There are procedures that the Navy uses to recover aircraft back to the carrier when they're in harm's way. There are things you can do. And so we began to illustrate those in terms of, you know, how can we get the commercial aircraft to behave in a way that authenticates and confirms who they are and what they're doing in a way that complies with all the security requirements.
Among the security measures established since 9/11, there's one that Brown believes has been most effective in keeping air travelers safe.
The hardening in the cockpit doors probably did more to prevent a recurrence of the type of crime that occurred on 9/11.
On the concourse at Reagan, people pass the time by reading, checking their email, shopping or eating. Craig Southworth is waiting for a flight to take him home to Utah. Even with the anniversary of the terror attacks approaching, he feels secure taking to the skies.
MR. CRAIG SOUTHWORTH
I think our government does a good job of protecting the area and, of course, you can't stop everything.
As for the need to arrive early to clear security hurdles, Southworth takes that in stride.
We need to be safe and do what we can to protect the travelers so that's a small price to pay, I think, to be able to travel.
Wilson Goodwin of Las Vegas works on a crossword puzzle while waiting for his son to fly in from Hawaii. He takes a tougher and, some might say, more political incorrect view of the security measures now in place.
MR. WILSON GOODWIN
I think, some of the methods that they're going to are too extreme. I think, unfortunately, I would say profiling would be better then what they're doing.
But Chris Brown, who now manages Dulles Airport says current security measurers aren't going anywhere and he says he's satisfied those measures are sufficient to ward off future threats.
Is it enough? Well, it's certainly enough for me and my family. I continue to fly and is it -- anything guaranteed? No.
On Sunday, Brown will be at work marking the moment when 10 years ago, American travel changed forever.
Obviously, we don't call it a celebration. It's a remembrance. It's a time to reflect and that, you know, you never want to forget what occurred.
I'm Jim Hilgen.
Time for another break now, but when we get back...
MS. KALISHA HOLMES
And for whatever reason, I was born on this day and for whatever reason, on the same day something horrible happened, but it's not my place to say I would change it.
What happens when your birthday falls on a national day of mourning, that's coming up in just a minute on "Metro Connection," here on WAMU 88.5.
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