Alaskans respond to attacks with increased security, donations

Posted: Wednesday, September 12, 2001

ANCHORAGE - As the shock of East Coast terrorism sunk in Tuesday, Alaskans responded with increased security measures and accommodations for people whose lives had been affected by the blast.

Security was increased at Alaska's military bases and federal buildings, Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. boosted security for the trans-Alaska pipeline, the Coast Guard ordered oil tanker loading halted at the Valdez terminal and the Federal Aviation Administration grounded all flights except for those conducted by the military and law enforcement agencies.

In Anchorage and Fairbanks, relief organizations sprung into action to help out airline passengers stranded in Alaska airports who could not be put up in hotels.

Dan Jarrell, teaching pastor at Grace Community Church, said 226 stranded passengers from Continental Airlines and China Airlines were on hand by early afternoon, including 13 infants.

Jarrell said the church called the Red Cross and offered its building as a shelter and the agency quickly accepted. The Red Cross was joined by representatives of the Salvation Army and the municipality of Anchorage.

Volunteers and emergency workers set up cots in Sunday school rooms where airline passengers could spend the night. Those who did not fit into the smaller rooms would find space on a cot in the church's auditorium, Jarrell said.

Buses were scheduled for Tuesday evening to take passengers to Hanshew Middle School for showers. Jarrell said Anchorage businesses were pitching in with donations. Among them: towels from American Linen and pizzas from Costco.

AT&T donated free long distance services for passengers to call relatives. Two passengers immediately used the phones to locate adult children in New York. One passenger had a son on the 73rd floor of the World Trade Center and one had a daughter on the 78th, Jarrell said. To the passengers' joy and amazement, both survived and were safe.

In Fairbanks, five aircraft had been diverted to Fairbanks International Airport, though only one was a passenger liner, a United Airlines jet. The rest were cargo planes.

Fairbanks passengers were housed at the Captain Bartlett Inn. Tim Biggane, borough emergency operations director, said only a few more hotel rooms were available if any more passenger planes were diverted to the city. Biggane said the Carlson Center, a conventional hall, was on hold to act as a shelter should more passenger planes arrive.

The grounding applied not only to major commercial aircraft but to air taxis, charter flights and hunting and fishing guides.

Two medical evacuations and two search and rescue flights were conducted in Alaska on Tuesday following the FAA decision. Each flight was approved by the FAA and the Air Force, said Bob King, press secretary for Gov. Tony Knowles.

"They are being allowed on a case-by-case basis," King said.

A Coast Guard spokesman said the agency also has been authorized to fly in emergency or lifesaving situations.

Jim Jager, forwarding information from the North West CruiseShip Association, said 14 ships are in Alaska waters. Most took on passengers Monday and were not due to offload passengers until Saturday or Sunday.

Just one cruise ship had plans to offload passengers today -- the Carnival Spirit, in Vancouver, British Columbia. Cruise line officials expect the Vancouver airport to be open today to fly them home.

If not, "The ship will become a big hotel," Jager said. "They'll just sit tight until the passengers can go."

The cruise ship association released a press release stating that cruise lines have stepped-up security onboard ships and in port facilities.

Other Alaska travelers faced delays. Tina Lundgren, president of the Alaska Travel Industry Association, said border crossings into Alaska were put on a heightened state of alert with nearly every vehicle undergoing a search. Flightseeing and helicopter glacier flights were grounded. The Alaska Railroad canceled its Tuesday morning departure from Anchorage to Fairbanks because part of the track runs through Elmendorf Air Force Base and Fort Richardson, which were closed to all nonmilitary personnel.

Across the state, churches planned community prayer meetings in response to the day's events. Skyline Family Fellowship in Eagle River opened its doors at 2 p.m. and Anchorage's Holy Family Cathedral planned an ecumenical prayer service with at least eight church leaders today.

Alaskans responded with vigor to calls for blood donations.

Greg Williams, disaster services director at the Red Cross in Fairbanks, said the organization had been inundated with people inquiring about giving blood. The Red Cross stopped referring people to FMH because the blood bank had been swamped, Williams said.

It was much the same story in Anchorage. At the Blood Bank of Alaska, people faced a three-hour wait for donating blood and many instead made appointments for later in the week, said chief executive officer Tom Hathaway.

He said the blood bank hopes to join with other members of its consortium to send a shipment of blood to New York.

"We're working with the military to get it out tonight," he said.

School officials in Anchorage and the Matanuska-Susitna Borough canceled after-school activities.

Anchorage Superintendent Carol Comeau said attendance was down.

"We felt it was better to have students get with their families and process these events," Comeau said.

Elementary schools had a higher absentee rate than usual -- 4,593 out of 27,627 elementary school students stayed home.

"It's a significant absentee rate," Comeau said.

In higher level classes, Comeau said, it was likely that regular instruction was set aside for discussions of the day's events.



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