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Worry grips families of distant loved ones

Posted: Thursday, September 13, 2001

An event the size and scope of Tuesday's terrorist attacks on the United States inevitably has an effect on people across the country. Even on the Kenai Peninsula, thousands of miles from the locations of the attacks, Tuesday's terrorism affected some residents of the peninsula in a very personal way -- worrying about the safety of their loved ones.

Paulene Rizzo, of Kenai, has a brother who is a pilot and was flying a commercial flight out of Flagstaff, Ariz., at the time of the attacks. Her brother, Jared Jones, flies for Mesa Airlines, owned by America West Airlines.

According to Rizzo, Jones was contacted by air traffic control as his plane neared Phoenix. He was told to divert his flight and land the plane at the Phoenix airport.

"He had to tell the passengers that they would be there in Phoenix and had to tell them what was going on," Rizzo said. "When they landed, the flight crew was escorted to the top level of the Phoenix airport and locked up for security reasons. They had to change to civilian clothes for fear of terrorists trying to take pilots. Then the National Guard came in and escorted them out of the building. The airport was already evacuated by then. He said it was scary. The streets of Phoenix were empty when he got out."

Rizzo had been calling family members and Jones' roommate to find out where he was after she learned of the attacks Tuesday morning. Jones called his sister later that morning to let her know he hadn't been flying on the East Coast and that he was all right. They also discussed the footage of the plane crashing into the World Trade Center in New York.

"From a pilot's point of view, he didn't think the pilots (of the hijacked planes) were alive when they crashed because the planes weren't flying the way a plane normally would," Rizzo said.

Guillermo Araoz, son of Lenore and Dr. Gonzalo Fraser, who has an office in Soldotna, was in New York City Tuesday morning at the time of the attacks. He works on Wall Street and has lived in New York for the past three years. His parents woke to his phone call about 5:30 Tuesday morning.

"He called and said 'I'm alive,' and we said 'what?'" Gonzalo Fraser said. "He said they had a terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and that he couldn't see anything because the whole area is covered with smoke."

Guillermo was in his office building on Wall Street when the planes crashed. According to his father, he could see the World Trade Center from the windows of his building.

"He called back later and said he saw the trade building collapse," Dr. Fraser said. "But somehow he got home and is fine. He was very scared. He said there were people everywhere running on the streets and that they closed everything so nobody could go anywhere. That's a moment he'll never forget in his life."

Bob Bird, the government teacher at Nikiski High School, has a son, Quincy Bird, attending college in Washington D.C. Quincy called and woke his father at 5:45 a.m., Alaska time, and told him the news.

"He said things are pretty crazy there right now," Bob Bird said. "He said he could see the smoke."

Quincy attends the Catholic University of America, which is located northeast of the Washington Mall.

Quincy e-mailed his father updates throughout the day.

"I went over after Mass to volunteer my first aid skills if needed," Quincy said in his e-mail. "Things are under control, though. I am on a list to donate blood, but the hospitals are overflowing and I am on a six-hour waiting list. Maybe it's my personality, but having to sit around and do nothing when things like this happen, especially in such proximity, is very hard for me. I want to help so bad, or at least do something relatively productive."

Bob Bird himself was in both Washington, D.C., and New York a few weeks ago while he was bringing his son to school.

"I just flew over Manhattan on the way back from dropping my son off in Washington," Bob said. "It really gives me the willies. I came in from Newark and got a whole view of Manhattan."

Howard Crandell, of Ninilchik, works as a mechanic on an oil rig in Prudhoe Bay. He called his wife Nancy in Ninilchik at about 9:30 a.m. after the news of the attacks broke.

"He called and said 'I guess you've heard what happened,'" Nancy Crandell said. "He said security tightened up a whole lot up there. Nobody's getting (out), the gates are all closed down, everything's being checked and rechecked and the guards are armed -- and he said they're never armed."

According to Nancy Crandell, her husband said the oil rigs were not being shut down at that point. The rigs were still staffed and workers were waiting for further instructions.

After the FAA grounded all air traffic Tuesday morning, North Slope workers were effectively stranded.

"He said they aren't so much worried about the rigs getting bombed," Crandell said. "It's what happens if someone gets hurt because they can't fly them out."

Howard Crandell works for Nabors Alaska Drilling. At the time of his phone call Tuesday morning, he and his fellow workers had not been evacuated and were waiting for instructions from their management offices in Anchorage. However, many offices in Anchorage were evacuated Tuesday morning, which could have made communication difficult.

"He says it's pretty scary up there not knowing what's happening," Nancy said.

"Everybody's worried up there about what's going on down here, and all of us down here with husbands up there are worried about them."



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