LGA slowly returns to life after terrorism

By Kathianne Boniello

A week after Queens’ airports were shut down in the wake of the World Trade Center attack, LaGuardia Airport was running at about 60 percent capacity, a Port Authority spokesman said.

LaGuardia, along with John F. Kennedy International and Newark airports, was closed by the Federal Aviation Administration Sept. 11 after terrorists used two hijacked commercial airliners to ram into the WTC, which soon collapsed. Two other commercial planes were also commandeered by terrorists, one of which slammed into the Pentagon.

Formerly one of the nation’s busiest airports, LaGuardia was slow to get back on its feet in the days following the worst terrorist attack on American soil.

Port Authority spokesman Frank Pita said Tuesday the airport was gradually coming back to life and operating at more than half its usual capacity.

LaGuardia opened briefly last Thursday before a bomb scare and then closed again with cancellations the name of the game. But a few flights resumed early Friday and by Saturday the number of takeoffs and landings had grown.

Verne and Carol Wilson had to be bused into LaGuardia Saturday afternoon from Boston’s Logan Airport after a seven-day cruise. They were heading to San Francisco but could not get out of New York.

Nancy Van of Port Washington, L.I., who had been stuck in Orlando, Fla. since Tuesday, said it was awful flying into New York City past the devastated World Trade Center.

“We saw it from the side and all we saw was smoke coming up,” she said. “It is a tragedy. You never think anything like this could happen. It is scary.”

Passengers who arrived at LaGuardia last Thursday faced the biggest hurdles as the airport opened for the first time since the terrorist assault. They were repeatedly turned away at the curb as they stepped out of taxis and cars after a bomb scare earlier in the day prompted the temporary evacuation of the airport.

Even though Anne Cooke spent most of the day waiting for her flight home to Florida, she said she did not mind.

“Nobody’s upset,” Cooke said of the extra security and cancellations at LaGuardia that day. “I’m just trying to find out if there’s going to be a flight.”

Lon Parke, looking fatigued, was pushing a cart full of luggage. Parke, a native of the island of Jamaica, was originally set to fly home at about 9 a.m. on the day of the attack but had been stranded in Queens since the closing of LaGuardia.

Parke said he would fly regardless of any lingering fears he might have about security.

“It’s the only way to get home,” he said.

Reporter Adam Kramer contributed to this story.

Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

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