When four jet airliners, apparently under the control of suicidal terrorists, slammed into both towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and into a field near Pittsburgh, Pa., the lives and routines of all Americans were affected to some extent.
Locally, some paused to mourn, others to commiserate with total strangers in store checkout lines. Some workers were sent home, to join the millions across America watching the devastation on television or listening to it on the radio.
Three U.S. Air Force fighter jets were seen streaking south over Cook Inlet at 1:15 p.m.; airborne radar jets, known as AWACS, were heard thundering over Kenai several times.
Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles announced increased security along the entire length of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline, as well as in Valdez at the pipeline's terminus.
Here on the peninsula, all three operating oil and gas plants did the same.
"We have increased the number of security personnel on site, and we've expanded it to our Kenai pipeline and terminal facilities," Tesoro Alaska Oil Refinery manager Rod Cason said. "We don't anticipate anything happening here, but we certainly want to be prepared."
He said his big concern is that "some sort of wacko out there" would commit a copycat attack.
When a Korean Airlines Boeing 747 was intercepted about 75 miles south of Kenai around 10 a.m., the Tesoro fuel pipeline that runs from Nikiski to Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport was shut down for about 25 minutes, Cason said.
"Other than that, everything's been business as usual," he said.
The KAL flight had sent an electronic signal indicating something was amiss on board. It turned out to be a low-fuel warning, but the plane was then diverted to Yakutat, though it was redirected to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada. According to The Associated Press, Anchorage government buildings and hotels were briefly evacuated, though the order was rescinded when it was found out the KAL flight was not a threat.
At Agrium's Kenai Nitrogen Operations plant in Nikiski, manager Mike Nugent said his company responded as well.
"We have put on extra security folks at the main gate, and we share some roving security with Tesoro that has been enhanced," Nugent said. "And the Alaska State Troopers, on their own, put an extra patrol on the North Road today."
Nugent said he and his department heads met Tuesday morning to examine the effects a nationwide grounding of airplanes could have on the plant. At times, critical parts are often shipped by air freight. Fortunately, he said, that was not the case today.
Dawn Patience, a Phillips Alaska spokesperson in Anchorage, said Phillips, too, is in a heightened state of security, here on the peninsula at the liquefied natural gas facility, on the North Slope and at the company's corporate offices in Ancho-rage.
"In the case of Anchorage, the (business office) tower has remained open for essential personnel," she said.
Patience said there was an LNG tanker inbound to the Nikiski plant but did not know what its situation was.
But Lt. Mark McManus, supervisor of the U.S. Coast Guard's Marine Safety Detachment in Kenai said that tanker would be anchoring up in lower Cook Inlet and Coast Guard personnel would be boarding it.
"We're addressing the LNG tanker now and are paying more attention to it," McManus said
He said a Coast Guard representative would take the ship from the Homer area to the Phillips dock in Nikiski.
"We shouldn't be delaying them too much," he added.
All three oil and gas spokespeople said the decision to increase security was a local decision, supported by their respective corporate offices.
The Kenai National Wildlife Refuge offices closed and 20 non-law enforcement personnel were sent home, according to Supervisory Park Ranger Bill Kent.
"Because of the events today, we're taking instruction from the regional office, and those were the directions we've gotten," he said. "We're patrolling ... but the refuge headquarters and the shop are shut down."
Jim Hall, deputy refuge manager, said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regional office, gave him the option to close.
"It was my decision to let non-essential personnel go home," Hall said.
"We are very much concerned, as is everybody, and it was all people were talking about."
He said the sister of one of the enforcement officers at the refuge was injured in the World Trade Center attacks, though he said she was doing well.
For himself, Hall said when he heard of the attacks on the radio in the morning, he thought it was so unbelievable as to be a hoax.
"They said the World Trade towers and then the Pentagon, and I thought someone was playing a joke, like the 1930s radio show 'War of the Worlds,'" he said.
"War of the Worlds" is an H.G. Wells story about a ficticious Martian invasion, that when aired as a radio play by Orson Wells, created a panic among listeners who thought it was an actual news report.
Hall said the refuge office will open again at 8 a.m. today, unless he hears otherwise.
Federal offices sent home all or most non-essential personnel all across the country.
The border crossings from Canada into Alaska were reported to be open.
"This is a sad day for all America, that's for sure," said Kenai Mayor John Williams. "I'm deeply concerned for the safety of America and this loss of lives of citizens."
He said he believed that in light of the attacks, he expects security will be tightened all over America.
"I'd rather wait in line for 30 more minutes to be assured a terrorist would not be joining me on an aircraft," he said.
Peninsula Clarion ©2013. All Rights Reserved.